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Behind Armour Blunt Trauma - an emerging problem
  1. Surg Lt Cdr L Cannon, BSc MB BS FRCS Dip Sports Med RN, Orthopaedic Specialist Registrar1
  1. 1Orthopaedic Dept, Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham, Hants, PO6 3LY


Behind Armour Blunt Trauma (BABT) is the non-penetrating injury resulting from the rapid deformation of armours covering the body. The deformation of the surface of an armour in contact with the body wall arises from the impact of a bullet or other projectile on its front face. The deformation is part of the retardation and energy absorbing process that captures the projectile. In extreme circumstances, the BABT may result in death, even though the projectile has not perforated the armour. An escalation of the available energy of bullets and the desire of armour designers to minimise the weight and bulk of personal armour systems will increase the risk of BABT in military and security forces personnel.

In order to develop materials that can be interposed between the armour and the body wall to attenuate the transfer of energy into the body, it is essential that the mechanism of BABT is known. There is a great deal of activity within UK and NATO to unravel the interactions; the mechanism is likely to be a combination of stress (pressure) waves generated by the rapid initial motion of the rear of the armour, and shear deformation to viscera produced by gross deflection of the body wall.

Physical and computer model systems are under development to characterise the biophysical processes and provide performance targets for materials to be placed between armours and the body wall in order to attenuate the injuries (trauma attenuating backings - TABs).

The patho-physiological consequences of BABT are being clarified by research, but the injuries will have some of the features of blunt chest trauma observed in road traffic accidents and other forms of civilian blunt impact injury. The injuries also have characteristics of primary blast injury. An overview diagnosis and treatment is described.

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