Scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the University of Rochesterrecently released a report on the results of a cutting-edge computer study on the correlation between non-impact bomb blasts and traumatic brain injuries in military personnel.
The researchers used advanced 3-dimensional computer simulations to identify the specific mechanisms by which brain injury occurs in soldiers exposed to non-impact explosive blasts. The simulations showed that non-lethal blasts cause the skull to flex slightly, which puts a heavy and possibly damaging load on the brain, even without any direct impact to the head.
Traumatic brain injury occurs from mechanical loads on the brain, which can lead to long-term complex problems in brain functioning. Most traumatic brain injuries come from direct skull impacts in sporting and car accidents. Military combat troops exposed to blasts from explosives have experienced an increase in traumatic brain injury, which led to research to prevent and more effectively treat those exposed to the blasts.
While advances in helmet and body armor design have reduced soldier fatality rates, the soldiers’ increased exposure to blasts have resulted in a higher incidence of brain injury.
The current research explored in detail just how non-impact bomb blasts produce severe mechanical loads on the skull and brain, similar to direct impacts on the skull in automobile accidents. However, the similarity ends there. The scientists involved in the study discovered that injuries in direct impacts arise from ‘bulk acceleration of the head,’ while injuries arising from bomb blasts are the result of blast waves ‘squeezing the skull.’
The results of the study have already proven influential in the design of new body armor and helmets. Current armor and helmets were designed to protect against direct impacts and shrapnel, but they lack the ability to defend against traumatic brain injury resulting from exposure to explosions.
Researchers and military armor designers will likely use the research to develop new armor systems based on the technical results of such studies in an attempt to displace the pressure from bomb blasts using advanced helmet design.
The research is available online for review in Physical Review Letters on their website:http://prl.aps.org/