Warfighter Protection Division - Injury Biomechanics Branch

The Injury Biomechanics Branch (IBB) is interested in the impact of abnormal environments on normal anatomy and is uniquely staffed with a team of engineers, aviators, health care professionals, and Soldiers.  The team studies the effects of exposure to physical forces (e.g., localized and whole body impacts and repeated jolt) on the health and performance of Army air and ground Warfighters.  These efforts are accomplished through epidemiological research, computer modeling, laboratory simulation, use of crash manikins and human volunteers, investigation of mishaps, study of combat aircrew life support equipment and the investigation of ground vehicular incidents.  Team members develop biomechanically validated injury standards and recommend injury prevention strategies to equipment developers and major commands.

Along these lines, the branch is in the process of fully exploiting an opportunity to acquire research equipment and data for the National Biodynamics Lab (NBDL) in New Orleans. The laboratory infrastructure and testing results were to be mothballed or destroyed and our lab personnel were able to salvage nearly all of the available equipment and data for our future use. The refurbishment of the drop towers, impact sleds and other apparatuses will give this branch a significant and unique capability within DOD, at a fraction of the cost for new systems and saving the taxpayer millions of dollars. Furthermore, the invaluable data that had been collected by the NBDL will be safely housed, catalogued and eventually digitized so that it can be easily accessed and queried.

  Eye and Face Injury Research Program  

The rate of eye injuries has dramatically increased in warfare from approximately 2% during World War I and World War II to nearly 13% during Operation Desert Storm, and eye injuries continue to be a significant problem in current operations. The military has developed a good inventory of armor to protect the trunk over those past decades but has been less successful in protecting the face and eyes. This may help explain the relative increase in facial and ocular trauma. In order to assess the capability of protective equipment in reducing eye and facial injuries, a new advanced biofidelic headform has been developed, and biomedically validated, that can predict the fracture of facial bones, as well as eye trauma, based on impact loads. The Facial and Ocular CountermeasUre Safety (FOCUS) Headform and was jointly designed and developed by the US Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory (USAARL) and the Virginia Tech/Wake Forest University Center for Injury Biomechanics (CIB) with Denton Manufacturing.

The unique FOCUS Headform allows personal protective equipment performance in blunt and blast environments by predicting the degree of trauma. Utilizing force deflection information from 26 data channels from 8 discrete tri-axial load cells – one for each major bone in the face – and 2 discrete single axis load cells for the eyes, algorithms based on specifically developed injury risk curves help predict the likelihood of various types of trauma (e.g., eye rupture, jaw fracture). Since the headform was explicitly designed to have the same center of gravity and mass as current test manikins, the device can be mounted on the body of Hybrid II and the Hybrid III neck. This allows for additional information about the transmission of traumatic forces to the cervical spine and muscles of the neck when the face is being impacted. This cutting edge testing device is also expected to help in the development of biomedically-validated standards for facial and eye protection in both military and civilian settings. These standards will be invaluable to armor manufacturers and procurement and testing agencies.

  Aircrew Leg and Back Pain Research Program  

A recent study of Army aircrew life support equipment effectiveness in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, conducted by the Army Center for Lessons Learned, identified aircrew discomfort as a leading cause of loss of mission effectiveness. Aviators complained of sore buttocks, lower back pain, numbness and loss of sensation in the lower extremities and feet. All of these conditions were reported as being severe enough to distract aviators from their appointed missions.

Preliminary work conducted at USAARL has led to the development of cushion pressure distribution evaluation metrics. A comprehensive cushion performance survey was developed and administered to the AH-64 Instructor Pilots to provide baseline data about the currently fielded cushions. Laboratory based objective measures have been pursued; leading to advances in pressure distribution and cushion vibration response evaluation methods. Efforts to validate new metrics and develop a set of cushion specific test procedures have demonstrated feasibility.

  Head Injury and Protection Research Program  

The objective of this effort is to support the Warfighter through improved protective helmets by the development of head acceleration and blast injury dose-response models for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and to characterize operational head kinematics during high risk activities. To develop dose-response models and criteria for mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI), boxer athletic headgear has been modified with instrumentation to measure the transmitted accelerations. In concert with this effort, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army (VSCA) has directed sensors be fielded to deployed Warfighters to measure operational exposures. This Laboratory has been actively supporting the VCSA-directed effort. Both of these systems have undergone laboratory testing for accuracy and repeatability and to ensure no additional hazards are introduced by the technology. This Science and Technology (S&T) program also has supported the Office of the Secretary of Defense in evaluating the protection provided by current Marine and Army combat helmets. Additionally, investigations are underway to characterize the blast environment during Marine breacher training. This controlled environment will provide data to understand operational blast exposure and human deficit and injury.

The Simbex Head Impact Telemetry System (HITS) was integrated into boxer headgear and validated on our mini-sled device. The integration of these sensors into the headgear was accomplished successfully with recording telemetry electronics and power supply attached to a waist belt. This approach has essentially removed the bulky electronic enclosures from the headgear, where previous concepts required removal of the protective padding to allow sufficient mounting space and altering the blunt impact protective capability of the boxer headgear.

A follow-on contract was awarded to Wayne State University to conduct validation tests with the HITS modified boxer headgear. If the HITS data is shown to produce reliable results of head accelerations, in comparison to biomechanical standards, efforts will be made to develop research studies with military boxers.

  Head Support Mass (HSM)  

The Army is dependent on head-supported devices ranging from basic ballistic and impact protective helmets to advanced weapon sighting and communications systems. This research is perfecting an integrated model incorporating head support device design criteria, operational guidelines, and health risk criteria that will minimize performance degradation and reduce risk of injury for the Warfighter while wearing these devices.

  Standard for Health Hazard Assessment (HHA) of Repeated Jolt in Army Vehicles  

In preparation for additional repeated jolt research, the new electromagnetic six degree of freedom Multi-Axis Ride Motion Simulator (MARS) has been installed and is ready for use. During CY07, the Safety Assessment Report and USAARL policy for use were completed. Medical equipment manufacturers have already voiced their interest in using the MARS table to test their equipment, and several protocols involving the ACE branch have been proposed. USAARL continues to work with military users and international researchers to develop and apply new methods for assessment of repeated jolt.

Last Updated 09/06/2013

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