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...

TBICoE 2021 Publications

Publication
3/16/2022

Master list of 2021 TBICoE articles published in research journals

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Patient and Family Resources | TBICoE Research | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence

A Retired Navy SEAL Discusses his TBI

Video
3/9/2022
A Retired Navy SEAL Discusses his TBI

Retired Navy SEAL Edward Rasmussen discusses his TBI, and urges others to seek treatment if they have symptoms. If you’re experiencing symptoms of TBI, visit health.mil/TBI to learn about the resources available to you.

Recommended Content:

Brain Injury Awareness To Improve Readiness | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence

One Airman's Recovery from TBI

Video
3/9/2022
One Airman's Recovery from TBI

After a motorcycle accident, Master Sergeant Stalnaker started having symptoms of traumatic brain injury, or TBI. He tells his story about his symptoms and his road to recovery from physical and emotional wounds as a result. If you’re experiencing symptoms of TBI, visit health.mil/TBI to learn about the resources available to you.

Recommended Content:

Brain Injury Awareness To Improve Readiness | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence

Remembering Dr. Alexander Augusta, the U.S. Army’s First Black Doctor

Article
2/25/2022
A photo of Maj. (Dr.) Alexander Augusta among the Seventh Regiment of U.S. Colored Troops where he served as regimental surgeon during the Civil War.

Dr. Alexander Augusta was the first African American to be an Army doctor.

Recommended Content:

Our History | Paving the Way for African Americans in Military Medicine: A Look Across Time

Caring for Recruits' Injuries is Key to Success at Basic Training

Article
2/23/2022
U.S. Marines wait for instruction from their Senior Drill Instructor after concluding a motivational run at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, on March 11, 2021.

Injuries at bootcamp can end a military career before it starts. That’s why trainers and drill instructors take countless precautions to ensure trainees stay fit and healthy.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness | Readiness Capabilities | Injury Prevention

BIAM Heads Up

Infographic
2/17/2022
BIAM Heads Up

Head injuries, especially from a blast, have become one of the most common combat-related injuries among deployed service members. Typical head injury symptoms are: trouble hearing speech in noisy settings, ringing or other sounds in your ears or head, or dizziness when you move your head while walking or bending down. Talk to your doctor if you have any of these symptoms. For more about TBI and hearing loss, visit: https://hearing.health.mil/Resources/Education/Conditions-and-Concerns/TBI-and-Hearing-Loss #BIAMonth #BeTBIReady

Recommended Content:

Brain Injury Awareness To Improve Readiness | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence

Brain Injury Awareness Month Banner

Infographic
2/17/2022
Brain Injury Awareness Month Banner

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. Traumatic brain injuries are a key health concern for the military community. Thanks to innovations across the Military Health System, we are improving quality of life for TBI patients & their families. This month, we will share stories, tips, and resources for TBI prevention and recovery. www.health.mil/BIAMonth #BeTBIReady #BIAMonth

Recommended Content:

Brain Injury Awareness To Improve Readiness | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence

BIAM Vision and Hearing

Infographic
2/17/2022
BIAM Vision and Hearing

Vision and hearing are vital senses for effective communication and situational awareness. To defend yourself against injury and maintain mission readiness, wear the proper vision and hearing protection while on and off duty. Find the latest vision and hearing protection recommendations here: • Vision: https://vce.health.mil/Eye-Injury-Prevention-and-Response/Eye-Protection • Hearing: https://hearing.health.mil/Prevention/Evaluated-Hearing-Protection-Devices #BIAMonth #BeTBIReady

Recommended Content:

Brain Injury Awareness To Improve Readiness | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention

BIAM TBI 3

Infographic
2/17/2022
BIAM TBI 3

#DYK Symptoms of TBI aren’t just physical? Severe TBIs can increase the risk for mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Learn more: https://www.health.mil/Military-Health-Topics/Centers-of-Excellence/Traumatic-Brain-Injury-Center-of-Excellence/Patient-and-Family-Resources #BeTBIReady

Recommended Content:

Brain Injury Awareness To Improve Readiness | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence

Brain Injury Awareness Month 1

Infographic
2/17/2022
Brain Injury Awareness Month 1

Even a mild traumatic brain injury can impact mission readiness and the ability to deploy. #BeTBIReady by understanding the signs and symptoms of TBI, and knowing when to seek care. Thanks to innovations across the Military Health System, TBI is treatable & recovery is possible. www.Health.mil/BIAMonth #BIAMonth #BeTBIReady

Recommended Content:

Brain Injury Awareness To Improve Readiness | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence

BIAM Head Injury

Infographic
2/17/2022
BIAM Head Injury

DYK? If you sustain a head injury, you could also have vision, balance, and hearing damage problems. See your health care provider right away. https://vce.health.mil; https://hearing.health.mil #BIAMonth #BeTBIReady

Recommended Content:

Brain Injury Awareness To Improve Readiness | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence

BIAM TBI 2

Infographic
2/17/2022
BIAM TBI 2

#DYK Most TBIs experienced by service members are mild concussions? But, remember, even a mild TBI can impact your overall health and ability to deploy. Learn more: https://www.health.mil/Military-Health-Topics/Centers-of-Excellence/Traumatic-Brain-Injury-Center-of-Excellence/Patient-and-Family-Resources #BeTBIReady

Recommended Content:

Brain Injury Awareness To Improve Readiness | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence

BIAM TBI

Infographic
2/17/2022
BIAM TBI

#DYK Most TBIs don’t occur while deployed? TBIs typically result from activities like sports, falls, or car accidents. Wearing protective gear is one way you can minimize your risk of TBI. #BeTBIReady https://www.health.mil/tbi

Recommended Content:

Brain Injury Awareness To Improve Readiness | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence

BIAM Providers

Infographic
2/17/2022
BIAM Providers

Providers: Stay up-to-date on the latest evidence-based clinical guidance and training so you are always #TBIReady. Visit: https://vce.health.mil/Clinicians-and-Researchers/Clinical-Practice-Recommendations, and https://hearing.health.mil/For-Providers. #BIAMonth #BeTBIReady

Recommended Content:

Brain Injury Awareness To Improve Readiness | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence

BIAM Call to Action

Infographic
2/17/2022
BIAM Call to Action

#PSA! Don’t forget your protective gear! Most TBIs do not occur in combat. They are usually caused by everyday activities like sports, training, or a car accident. You can minimize the risk of TBI by wearing protective gear. www.health.mil/BIAMonth #BeTBIReady #BIAMonth

Recommended Content:

Brain Injury Awareness To Improve Readiness | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 46 - 60 Page 4 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