US Military developing body armour to detect brain injury

This article was published on: 01/18/17

Shockwaves and blasts from explosives can often cause harm to military personnel that is difficult to detect. To combat this, the US army is currently developing body armour that can assess damage sustained in a blast, in order to help pull injured soldiers away from avoidable, excess harm.

Staying full strength

The new armour looks to make use of pressure sensors and scanners to send information back to medical staff. That information can then help staff decide if the soldier in question can continue with their operation or would be better suited returning and facing a medical examination.

Current military guidelines rule that those in close proximity to explosions need to return from the field and have a medical check-up , as well as take 24 hours of inactivity to prevent further injury.  The problem with this approach is many people close to a blast could receive no injuries at all or may be ok to continue with the operation but are forced off the field for precautionary purposes.

Manpower is a vital tool for the military and having a full contingent (especially if the operation requires specialists) greatly heightens the chances of a smooth, successful mission. This armour (using both body and helmet sensor) can assist with that.

Wireless feedback

The armour features coin sized sensors around the body and in the soldier’s helmet. This connects with the  medics who can then issue a “go or no go” ruling, based on algorithms which compare the blast taken to an appropriate injury threshold.

The system (known as Blast Load Assessment Sense And Test or BLAST) is hoped to be the difference between suffering no injuries (taking unnecessary time away) and being told to continue (risking multiple brain injuries which could result in life changing consequences).

Alongside the pressure systems, it remotely checks for symptoms of brain injury which can be relayed back to medical staff. The suit itself can withstand blasts and remain intact, essentially giving the person wearing it a “hulk like” outer layer. This will make them less susceptible to nearby impacts.

The body armour itself can prevent injury, however, there are still some concerns from military personnel who believe a 24 hour waiting period to re-join active service may not be long enough to detect even minor traumatic brain injuries if the symptoms are not immediate or obvious.

Despite the drawbacks, that problem inherently lies in the current protocols, rather than the BLAST system, which can only serve to help prevent traumatic brain injuries in the military. With technology constantly getting smaller and better, could we see this rolled out en masse to regular infantry, who require lighter armour to move rather than a body suit?

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