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Brain injuries common among Army soldiers in Afghanistan

A serious head trauma accident often leaves its victims in critical condition. A person's head and neck are considered some of the most vulnerable parts of their body, since injuries to either area can result in memory loss, brain damage, loss of certain motor functions, and even paralysis.

Members of the armed services must come face to face with the risk of a head injury every day as their job places them in dangerous, unpredictable situations. A survey of Army doctors in Afghanistan shows that over 300 soldiers suffered from a concussion or brain injury accident each month during the summer of 2010. Soldiers are provided with helmets as part of their protective combat gear, but this protection is not enough to prevent many of the injuries solders face.

However, a new study from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory states that relatively simply changes in the design of an Army soldier's helmet can help reduce the impact of blows to the head by almost 25 percent.

Researchers at the California-based center advocate giving service members a larger helmet size and adding an eighth of an inch more padding inside the dome. Data collected from this recent study suggest that these small alterations deliver big results when it comes to protecting against brain injury.

According to USA Today, high-ranking officials in the Army hierarchy are excited about these findings and are currently in the process of double-checking the researchers' claims. Yet, officials are also concerned that larger, heavier helmets would place an added weight burden on soldiers who are already encumbered with a tremendous amount of gear. Soldiers' jobs often require them to react quickly to a dangerous situation, and a heavy helmet could hinder their ability to move rapidly.

Despite these concerns, many researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory remain confident that their findings could provide Army soldiers with an added layer of protection, making their dangerous job just a little bit safer.

Source: USA Today, "Larger helmet could guard against brain injury to troops." Gregg Zoroya, 18 April 2011

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