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A World War I Helmet Outperformed Modern Gear in Preventing Brain Injuries

A World War I Helmet Outperformed Modern Gear in Preventing Brain Injuries

When it comes to effectiveness in protecting soldiers from certain types of traumatic brain injuries, your great-grandfather’s World War I helmet might be just as effective, if not more effective, a new study by Duke University researchers has found. According to a news report on PBS, the study looks at the effects of overhead explosions. But it still raises questions about why today’s military helmet designs, with all our technological advances, are not significantly better when it comes to head injury protection compared to helmets used more than 100 years ago.

What the Experiment Found

The Duke University’s biomedical engineers experimented by placing various styles of World War I helmets and modern helmets under a “shock tube,” which simulates an artillery shell exploding between 3 and 15 feet away. The researchers then compared the impact on the helmets to the likelihood of brain injury from that pressure level. The results showed that the older helmets were just as likely to prevent brain damage as any designs being used today.

The study showed that a soldier wearing any of the helmets is five to 10 times less likely to experience bleeding in the brain from an overhead blast than someone without a helmet. In fact, the 1915 French “Adrian” helmet provided the most protection, researchers found – even more than that of modern helmets. Because modern helmets have multiple layers of materials to prevent injuries, the study’s authors claim that the findings surprised them.

The older helmets used during World War I were mostly just formed out of a thin layer of steel. At the time, people knew very little about traumatic brain injuries. So, the helmets were designed to shield soldiers’ heads from shrapnel, not shockwaves. Researchers concluded that the protection provided against brain injuries was a fortunate byproduct. However, researchers say they would not suggest that present-day soldiers use these old helmets. Today’s helmets, they say, are much better at preventing shrapnel injuries and against shockwaves from roadside bombs or improvised explosive devices.

More Awareness About Brain Injuries

The awareness of traumatic brain injuries has grown by a lot in recent years. Brain injuries have been linked to mood and anxiety disorders as well as a higher risk of suicide. Studies estimate that between 11% and 23% of U.S. military personnel who return from Iraq and Afghanistan likely have a TBI. Today, we know the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries. We know that even concussions cause long-term brain damage.

Traumatic brain injuries, regardless of how they occur, can result in the need for significant medical and rehabilitation expenses. If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury due to someone else’s negligence, contact an experienced California brain injury lawyer to understand your legal rights and options better.


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