Army: Integrated Protective Headborne Equipment and Injury Diagnostic/Assessment Tools

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Abstract
Head borne protection for the individual combatant involves protection of the head (to include the eyes, neck and throat) against fragmentation munitions, handgun projectiles, blunt trauma impact, and behind armor effects including injuries caused by kinetic energy and blast waves. New materials, designs including modeling and simulation design tools, survivability models, treatments and diagnosis technologies are required to meet this broad range of threats while also providing in-depth consideration to the appropriate ergonomics, comfort, hearing, mission requirements, thermal/vapor management and other cognitive functions necessary for the combatant to fully execute their operational duties without extensive physical or mental impairments.New diagnostic and assessment tools/methods that medically evaluate the combatant are needed in order to more fully characterize specific warrior populations at risk and requiring further clinical intervention. In order to support this requirement new diagnostic and assessment methods and tools for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) are required. In addition, research data needs to be collected in a systematic manner for the various services, compiled and analyzed in order to develop a baseline for a requirements document. The injury data is a key element in developing treatment and diagnosis tools and new protection/survivability models so that troops maybe better protected in future engagements and injuries treated at the front lines.

A comparison of current capabilities versus future battlefield requirements dictates interest in the following major areas of scientific knowledge and technological capabilities. Technology is needed for
– new and improved polymers for fiber reinforced plastics and resins which can provide increased ballistic protection and lighter weight;
– new fibers and materials for energy absorption and moisture vapor permeability/cooling management;
– transparent materials for enhanced eye protection without reductions in visibility;
– improved lightweight integrated communications devices;
– engineering designs which incorporate enhancements to combat helmets including area of coverage, field of view, modular attachment points, speech recognition, and compatibility with existing equipment and improved hearing capabilities;
– modeling and simulation tools for material/armor system designs; and
– modeling and simulation survivability design tools including bio-mechanics and injury prevention/diagnosis models.

A need also exists for the following:
1. Novel modular designs and integration concepts to identify the best technical approach to provide head protection to the individual combatant against multiple ballistic and nonballistic threats – such concepts should identify ballistic protection capabilities for each component and area of the head to be protected; upon identification of critical design elements further efforts should establish the feasibility of systematically combining those modular components into a lightweight head borne system of approximately three and a half pounds providing a high level of protection against the identified threats and high level of user comfort
2. Unique and novel design approaches, which utilize the currently fielded equipment and developmental items as a base platform for incorporating modular components for improved ballistic/blast protection and would offer the user the ability to tailor the level of protection to the current threat by adding or removing modular integrated components (i.e., face shield, eye protection, neck protection)
3. Unique and novel design approaches for protective assemblies, which provide maximum area of coverage and ballistic resistance capabilities – these systems could weigh as much as six to eight pounds and encompass the entire head; this type of approach will require attachment designs and bio-mechanic studies to determine the best means for carrying the system weight on the shoulders or other parts of the body and be capable of allowing the user to tailor the level of protection to the anticipated threat by adding or removing modular integrated components
4. Ergonomic and human factor studies to identify key parameters for user acceptability – the identified design(s) include studies, laboratory data and human evaluations for heat stress retention, stability, ability to fire weapon systems, maneuverability and general form, fit and function of proposed design
5. Modeling and simulation design and material evaluation tools which provide engineers and medical personnel the appropriate human interface information necessary to mitigate injuries from a variety of threats encountered on the modern battlefield
6. Characterization and surveillance of, and mitigation of, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), primarily within military personnel
7. There is a need to match evidence-based services to the needs of deployed personnel, and to allow the Navy Surgeon General and the Medical Officer of the Marine Corps to provide accurate psychological health information; specifically, there is a critical need for surveillance to determine the prevalence of psychological health problems and TBI in expeditionary Sailors and Marines, particularly in high-risk populations such as infantry
8. Other topics pertaining to psychological health relevant to TBI are develop a core body of knowledge in compassion fatigue; evaluate the need for telemedicine; educate professional on those affected by disease or addiction; develop course on how to use pharmacotherapy treatment and non-pharmacological intervention; standardize a Neurocognitive and Combat Stress Toolbox; develop a portable head-neck CT scan for use in patient transport; study ocular signs of TBI; develop the Navy Reserve’s Psychological Health strategic plan; develop critical skills related to individual and family emotional regulation, problem solving, communication, and accessing support; develop assessment and treatment program for the families of Wounded Warriors; develop an outreach program for Marines; provide mental health case managers and oversight for each Wounded Warrior Battalion; train support staff at USMC HQ; enhance knowledge and skills on non-mental health caregivers to recognize combat related symptoms; train mental health providers on the techniques and interventions necessary to decrease combat operational stress; provide on-site training for OSCAR team members prior to deployment; investigate negative expectations about disclosing combat experiences; develop website for self-management intervention employing empirically derived cognitive-behavioral therapy; develop pre-deployment training for psychological first aid; etc.