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Thinking A-head

"Brain injury is often characterized as an invisible wound of war" – Frank Crispino, director of Vehicle Protection Programs at BAE Systems.

The Invisible Wound of War

HEADS is a small sensor mounted inside a combat helmet that records the severity of blasts and other impacts to the head during an explosion. HEADS is a small sensor mounted inside a combat helmet that records the severity of blasts and other impacts to the head during an explosion.

287,911* – The number of returning service members who’ve been medically diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) since 2000. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, TBI is a form of acquired brain injury that occurs when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain. Although TBI affects many people throughout the world, service members tend to be more at risk due to their exposure to blast, ballistic, and impact forces. In fact, the Department of Defense has labeled TBI as “one of the signature injuries of troops wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq,” due to exposure to blasts from improvised explosive devices, land mines, and more. With TBI as a major concern, U.S. Army leaders have turned their focus to identifying soldiers who may have brain injuries, and we’re helping to support their effort with our innovative solution, the Headborne Energy Analysis and Diagnostic Systems (HEADS).

Small Sensor, Big Results

One of the most troubling aspects of TBI is that symptoms of the injury may not appear until days or weeks later, hence its tagline: “an invisible wound of war.” Therefore, those who have sustained a severe brain injury may not seek the medical attention necessary to properly treat the injury. That’s where our HEADS technology comes in.

HEADS is small sensor that monitors and records the overpressures and accelerations experienced through head impacts or movements. The sensor, which is mounted on the inside of a combat helmet, is designed to capture pressure, as well as angular and linear accelerations, from traumatic events. If an explosion, for example, causes quick head movements or pressures that exceed predefined thresholds, HEADS records the event. This stored event data can later be easily downloaded through a USB connection, allowing medical personnel to receive information crucial in determining the potential for head and brain injuries.

We might not be able to see what happened to the soldier at the time of the explosion, but with HEADS, we can analyze the data to help paint a picture that can ultimately lead to better equipment and treatment for combat-related brain injuries.

Frank Crispino, director of Vehicle Protection Programs at BAE Systems.

 

A Great Invention

Patrol Soldiers on Patrol

In 2010, the Army explored the possibility of HEADS, leading them to order thousands of helmet sensors from our Phoenix, Ariz., site, which develops and produces the systems in partnership with Diversified Technical Systems. Based on the data and information received from the technology, the Army ordered additional sensors, and HEADS went on to be named one of the Army’s “Greatest Inventions of 2011.”

Tackling Head Injuries

As the Army continued to see the value of data collected from HEADS, the National Football League (NFL) grew interested in the technology, since many of their players are also at a high risk for head injuries. In 2012, the Army and the NFL joined forces to spearhead an initiative to share resources and raise awareness of TBI. Now, the NFL is one step closer to testing and eventually using similar helmet sensors.

Raising Awareness

Because it fits securely under the padding, troops wearing the HEADS device won’t even notice it is there. Because it fits securely under the padding, troops wearing the HEADS device won’t even notice it is there.

With partnerships like those between the Army and the NFL, momentum on raising awareness for TBI has not slowed down. In fact, this past March, the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force hosted Brain Injury Awareness Day – an event in honor of Brain Injury Awareness month. Throughout the day, 120 bipartisan House and Senate members worked together to educate attendees and increase awareness of brain injury. We participated in this event by showcasing our HEADS technology.

More to Come

We recently received a contract from the U.S. Army to manufacture even more HEADS helmet sensors, which are currently being built. Having the ability to provide helmet sensors that help save warfighters’ lives beyond the battlefield is something we’ve been proud of since the technology’s inception, and we look forward to seeing continued progress.

“We’re honored to be able to support the program so soldiers who are subject to some form of TBI can be identified, receive proper treatment, and live happy and healthy lives. I hope that’s our legacy.” said Crispino.

*Statistic found in Congressional Research Service report for Congress