More than 100 U.S. military personnel were diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries from a missile attack by Iran last month on Ain al-Asad air base in retaliation for an earlier drone strike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.
Now, researchers at Duke University say a simple design feature of a 100-year-old French helmet may help reduce such combat injuries in the future.
Despite significant advances in ballistic protection and blunt-force impact, modern military helmets — such as the ones used today by American forces — are no better at protecting the individual soldier from blast shock waves than their World War I era counterparts, researchers said.
“Indeed, some historical helmets performed better in some respects,” Joost Op ‘t Eynde, a biomedical engineering doctoral candidate at Duke University and an author of the study, said in a statement released by the university.
Mr. Op ‘t Eynde and the other researchers compared the current U.S. helmet, the Advanced Combat Helmet, with the “Brodie” design used by U.S. and British troops in World War I, along with the “Stahlhelm” helmet used by Germany and the “Adrian” design from France.
The researchers took turns placing the helmets on dummies with sensor devices then firing shock waves at them. The waves were equivalent to the impact of nearby artillery rounds.
The French “Adrian” helmet, created in 1915, had the lowest risk for moderate brain bleeding, including the one used today by U.S. military forces. Researchers were intrigued because the French design was made of the same material as the British and German counterparts and even had a thinner wall.
“The main difference is that the French helmet had a crest on top of its crown. While it was designed to deflect shrapnel, this feature might also be deflecting shock waves,” Mr. Op ‘t Eynde said in the statement.
The Duke University researchers said their findings demonstrate the importance of their work to create helmets that can better protect the soldier from shock waves.
“With all of the modern materials and manufacturing capabilities we possess today, we should be able to make improvements in helmet design that protects from blast waves better than helmets today or 100 years ago,” Mr. Op ‘t Eynde said in the statement.
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