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Comparing the medical coverage provided by four contemporary military combat helmets against penetrating traumatic brain injury
  1. John Breeze1,2,
  2. R N Fryer3 and
  3. J Russell4
  1. 1Academic Department of Military Surgery and Trauma, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2Department of Bioengineering, Imperial College London, London, UK
  3. 3Platform Systems Division, Dstl, Fareham, Hampshire, UK
  4. 4Platform Systems Division, Dstl, Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK
  1. Correspondence to Lt Col John Breeze, Academic Department of Military Surgery and Trauma, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Birmingham B15 2WB, UK; johno.breeze{at}


Introduction Modern military combat helmets vary in their shapes and features, but all are designed to protect the head from traumatic brain injury. Recent recommendations for protection against energised projectiles that are characteristic of secondary blast injury is to ensure coverage of both the brain and brainstem.

Method Graphical representations of essential coverage of the head (cerebral hemispheres, cerebellum and brainstem) within an anthropometrically sized model were superimposed over two standard coverage helmets (VIRTUS helmet, Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH)) and two ‘high-cut’ helmets (a Dismounted Combat Helmet (DCH)) and Combat Vehicle Crewman (CVC) helmet), both of which are designed to be worn with communications devices. Objective shotline coverage from representative directions of projectile travel (−30 to +30 degrees) was determined using the Coverage of Armour Tool (COAT).

Results VIRTUS and ACH demonstrated similar overall coverage (68.7% and 69.5%, respectively), reflecting their similar shell shapes. ACH has improved coverage from below compared with VIRTUS (23.3% vs 21.7%) due to its decreased standoff from the scalp. The ‘high-cut’ helmets (DCH and CVC) had reduced overall coverage (57.9% and 52.1%), which was most pronounced from the side.

Conclusions Both the VIRTUS and ACH helmets provide excellent overall coverage of the brain and brainstem against ballistic threats. Coverage of both would be improved at the rear by using a nape protector and the front using a visor. This is demonstrated with the analysis of the addition of the nape protector in the VIRTUS system. High-cut helmets provide significantly reduced coverage from the side of the head, as the communication devices they are worn with are not designed to provide protection from ballistic threats. Unless absolutely necessary, it is therefore recommended that high-cut helmets be worn only by those users with defined specific requirements, or where the risk of injury from secondary blast is low.

  • trauma management
  • neuroradiology
  • oral & maxillofacial surgery

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request.

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Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request.

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  • Contributors Design: JB, RNF, JR. Methodology: JB, RNF, JR. Reporting: JB, RNF, JR.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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