Abstract

Military personnel sustain head and brain injuries as a result of ballistic, blast, and blunt impact threats. Combat helmets are meant to protect the heads of these personnel during injury events. Studies show peak kinematics and kinetics are attenuated using protective headgear during impacts; however, there is limited experimental biomechanical literature that examines whether or not helmets mitigate peak mechanics delivered to the head and brain during blast. While the mechanical links between blast and brain injury are not universally agreed upon, one hypothesis is that blast energy can be transmitted through the head and into the brain. These transmissions can lead to rapid skull flexure and elevated pressures in the cranial vault, and, therefore, may be relevant in determining injury likelihood. Therefore, it could be argued that assessing a helmet for the ability to mitigate mechanics may be an appropriate paradigm for assessing the potential protective benefits of helmets against blast. In this work, we use a surrogate model of the head and brain to assess whether or not helmets and eye protection can alter mechanical measures during both head-level face-on blast and high forehead blunt impact events. Measurements near the forehead suggest head protection can attenuate brain parenchyma pressures by as much as 49% during blast and 52% during impact, and forces on the inner table of the skull by as much as 80% during blast and 84% during impact, relative to an unprotected head.

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