An astounding 150,000 to 300,000 Iraq war veterans have suffered from a traumatic brain insult or injury. Traumatic brain injury can lead to a variety of problems for the individual that can be difficult to overcome. Scientists need to find better ways to treat and diagnose these brain injuries. However, a big issue is preventing these injuries from occurring at all in the first place. That would be ideal.

Recent research has come from scientists in the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. They have investigated some of the mechanics of how a bomb blast could affect the brain. Currently most armor (helmets etc.) is designed to minimize the force of the impact of stuff that hits the soldier. However some helmet designs have a gap between a soldier’s skull and their helmet. This gap, researchers have found, could actually amplify the pressure that comes from a bomb blast wave. This research may lead to better helmets that could prevent traumatic brain injury in the first place.

The abstract of this new study is named “Skull Flexure from Blast Waves: A New Mechanism for Brain Injury with Implications for Helmet Design”:

Traumatic brain injury [TBI] has become the signature injury of current military conflicts. The debilitating effects of TBI on society are long-lasting and costly. Although the mechanisms by which impacts cause TBI have been well researched, the mechanisms by which blasts cause TBI are not understood. Various mechanisms, including impacts caused by the blast, have been investigated, but blast-induced deformation of the skull has been neglected. Through the use of hydrodynamical numerical simulations, we have discovered that non-lethal blasts can induce sufficient flexure of the skull to generate potentially damaging loads in the brain, even if no impact occurs. This mechanism has implications for the diagnosis of TBI in soldiers and the design of protective equipment such as helmets.