BOSTON, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- The design of the combat helmet worn by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan does little to protect troops from blast-related brain injury, researchers say.
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology investigated traumatic brain injury, often called TBI or concussion, one of the most distinctive and difficult wounds sustained by troops, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.
More than 188,000 cases have been diagnosed among troops who have served in the Middle East, military officials say.
Brain injuries from explosions occur when a soldier close to the blast is thrown against a wall or to the floor, causing "brain whiplash," neurosurgeon Jam Ghajar, president of the Brain Trauma Foundation, said.
But for many troops, brain trauma appears to occur without a direct blow to the head, leaving many experts wondering how the damage occurs.
The MIT research team says a design change could substantially improve the helmet's ability to reduce the risk of concussion in these cases.
A face shield, they say, would deflect the rippling force of an explosion away from the soft tissues of the face that could be transmitting the shock of the explosion into the skull and brain.