Skip to main content

Military Health System

A History of the Combat Helmet and the Quest to Prevent Injuries

Image of Lt. Gen. George S. Patton and Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. are pictured here in 1943 wearing the standard M1 helmet, sometimes called the "steel pot." (Photo: 1st Infantry Division Courtesy Photo). Lt. Gen. George S. Patton and Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. are pictured here in 1943 wearing the standard M1 helmet, sometimes called the "steel pot." (Photo: 1st Infantry Division Courtesy Photo)

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Our History | Injury Prevention

As a critical piece of a warfighter's protective gear, the combat helmet has vastly improved over the years as new technology and better designs have reduced the risk of fatal blows and traumatic brain injuries.

The earliest combat helmets were made from bronze and used to protect soldiers from swords and arrows. They were heavy, crudely designed and did not fit well.

During World War I and World War II, standard helmets were made from thin steel. They provided protection mainly against shrapnel rather than shock waves. They were lighter and provided better protection than helmets from previous eras.

But at that time, soldiers were often reluctant to use their chin strap because they believed that "it was better for [the helmet] to be knocked off rather than injure the soldier's neck," said Alan Hawk, a collections manager for the National Museum of Health and Medicine, a branch of the Research Support Division in the Research & Engineering Directorate of the Defense Health Agency.

Technology and safety protocols have evolved in recent years, resulting in helmets that provide more protection from both projectiles and shock waves.

Modern combat helmets, like the one worn by this Marine, offer protection from both projectiles and blast waves. They are also designed to incorporate the use of communications equipment and other devices that can improve warfighter performance and capability. (Photo: Lance Cpl. Manuel Alvarado, U.S. Marine Corps)
Modern combat helmets, like the one worn by this Marine, offer protection from both projectiles and blast waves. They are also designed to incorporate the use of communications equipment and other devices that can improve warfighter performance and capability. (Photo: Lance Cpl. Manuel Alvarado, U.S. Marine Corps)

Modern Helmets

Modern helmets became lighter as steel was replaced with composite materials like Kevlar. They now have padding and fitted chinstraps, allowing the helmet to stay attached during a blast. Inside, they include an energy-absorbing liner. Modern helmets are designed and tested to meet consistent standards to protect soldiers from concussions and other injuries.

Visibility is also now a key factor to helmet design.

"The best helmet in the world is not effective if a soldier walks into an ambush due to hampered vision," Hawk said.

In recent years, U.S. Special Operations Command helped develop a new helmet designed to integrate modern communications devices. The Army adopted a version of that helmet in 2002 and named it the Advanced Combat Helmet.

Modern helmets are also customized for specific jobs beyond the traditional infantry. Aircrew helmets protect from impact and noise. Helicopter aircrew have helmets that help protect against ricochets from the ground. Both helmets typically have built-in communications headsets and visors as well.

Modern helmet designers optimize protection using test standards and methods measuring the probability of neck injuries, concussions, and other injuries for specific conditions like ejection, said Benjamin Steinhauer, an engineer for the Air Force Research Laboratory's 711th Human Performance Wing.

The Future of Helmets

New helmets focus on suspension technology, which uses shock absorbing webbing, and lightweight and crack resistant materials.

While experts agree there will never be a perfect helmet, the military continues to make significant gains in protecting service members from TBI and other injuries.

"We do find ways to make helmets lighter without sacrificing the mission," Steinhauer said.

You also may be interested in...

Top Medical Workplace Injuries – And Some Tips to Prevent Them

Article
10/15/2021
Military personnel getting an N95

Occupational Hazards for Health Care Workers: Advice from the Experts

Recommended Content:

Injury Prevention and Occupational Health | Injury Prevention

2021 Q2 DOD Worldwide Numbers for TBI

Publication
10/14/2021

TBICoE is the Defense Department’s office of responsibility for tracking traumatic brain injury data in the U.S. military. Here you’ll find data on the number of active-duty service members—anywhere U.S. forces are located—with a first-time TBI diagnosis in the second quarter of calendar year 2021. The data is also broken down by each branch of the armed services.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | DOD TBI Worldwide Numbers | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence

2000-Q2 2021 DOD Worldwide Numbers for TBI

Publication
10/14/2021

TBICoE is the Defense Department’s office of responsibility for tracking traumatic brain injury data in the U.S. military. Here you’ll find data on the number of active-duty service members—anywhere U.S. forces are located—with a first-time TBI diagnosis from calendar year 2000 through the second quarter of 2021. The data is also broken down by each branch of the armed services.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | DOD TBI Worldwide Numbers | Centers of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence

USU Co-leads Largest NCAA-DOD Concussion Study in History

Article
10/8/2021
A doctor looks at a patient's prosthetic arm.

The Uniformed Service University will co-lead the next phase of the largest concussion and repetitive head impact study.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence

Back from the Brink: One Marine's Recovery from Suicidal Thoughts

Article
9/29/2021
Portrait photo of John Peck

After suffering a TBI in Iraq and losing all four limbs in Afghanistan, Marine Sgt. John Peck talks about his own experience and the differences in the ways in which individuals deal with traumatic life events.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Suicide Prevention Toolkit | Suicide Prevention | Mental Health is Health Care

Concussion Linked to Depression, Anxiety and PTSD, Studies Show

Article
9/28/2021
Picture of blast waves during an explosion

A clear link between blast-related concussions and mental health symptoms like depression, anxiety, and PTSD, is shown in a series of recent studies.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence

Occupational Safety

Video
9/24/2021
Occupational Safety

Occupational Safety. It is everyone's responsibility to be aware and take care of yourself when it comes to workplace environments. Whether you work from home, in a hospital or clinic, or are out in the field, take precautions and preventive measures to ensure your welfare to be able to continue to serve our beneficiaries.

Recommended Content:

Injury Prevention and Occupational Health | Injury Prevention

USU Students Examine Civil War History to Understand the Future of Medicine

Article Around MHS
9/22/2021
Nearly 300 students from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences participated in a 30-year-old-tradition of marching through the battlefield of Antietam on Aug. 20

During the Battle of Antietam, Union Major Jonathan Letterman implemented his ideas for reshaping the Army’s Medical Corps, earning him the nickname the “Father of Battlefield Medicine.”

Recommended Content:

Our History | Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

How Good Diet and Exercise Prevent Injury and Disease

Article
8/30/2021
Photo of group doing pushups.

A proper diet and exercise regimen can ward off disease and aid in maintaining your health.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Injury Prevention | Nutritional Fitness

Gen. George Washington Ordered Smallpox Inoculations for All Troops

Article
8/16/2021
Old photo of George Washington in battle

George Washington’s tactics included directing the first mass military inoculations

Recommended Content:

Our History | Immunizations

NICoE, NHRC Team Up To Make CAREN Technology Portable

Article
8/12/2021
A person walks in front of a large virtual reality screen.

Head-mounted display technology has become more affordable and accessible

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | The National Intrepid Center of Excellence

2000-Q1 2021 DOD Worldwide Numbers for TBI

Publication
8/9/2021

TBICoE is the Defense Department’s office of responsibility for tracking traumatic brain injury data in the U.S. military. Here you’ll find data on the number of active-duty service members—anywhere U.S. forces are located—with a first-time TBI diagnosis from calendar year 2000 through the first quarter of 2021. The data is also broken down by each branch of the armed services.

Recommended Content:

DOD TBI Worldwide Numbers | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence

2021 Q1 DOD Worldwide Numbers for TBI

Publication
8/9/2021

TBICoE is the Defense Department’s office of responsibility for tracking traumatic brain injury data in the U.S. military. Here you’ll find data on the number of active-duty service members—anywhere U.S. forces are located—with a first-time TBI diagnosis in the first quarter of calendar year 2021. The data is also broken down by each branch of the armed services.

Recommended Content:

DOD TBI Worldwide Numbers | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence

How Spec Ops and DHA Teamed Up to Build an Inexpensive DIY Ventilator

Article
7/28/2021
Nurse checks up on a patient in a mechanical ventilator

Military inventiveness is seen in the history of ventilators

Recommended Content:

Our History

MHS and MOS Town Hall Virtual Tour

Video
7/27/2021
MHS and MOS Town Hall Virtual Tour

MHS and Military OneSource To Your Health presents a virtual field trip to The National Museum of Health and Medicine.

Recommended Content:

Our History | National Museum of Health and Medicine
<< < ... 6 7 8 9 10  ... > >> 
Showing results 76 - 90 Page 6 of 20
Refine your search
Last Updated: September 01, 2022
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery