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Assessing Behind Armor Blunt Trauma (BABT) Under NIJ Standard-0101.04 Conditions Using Human Torso Models

Merkle, Andrew C. MS; Ward, Emily E. MS; O'Connor, James V. MS, MD; Roberts, Jack C. PhD

Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery: June 2008 - Volume 64 - Issue 6 - p 1555-1561
doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e318160ff3a
Original Articles

Background: Although soft armor vests serve to prevent penetrating wounds and dissipate impact energy, the potential of nonpenetrating injury to the thorax, termed behind armor blunt trauma, does exist. Currently, the ballistic resistance of personal body armor is determined by impacting a soft armor vest over a clay backing and measuring the resulting clay deformation as specified in National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Standard-0101.04. This research effort evaluated the efficacy of a physical Human Surrogate Torso Model (HSTM) as a device for determining thoracic response when exposed to impact conditions specified in the NIJ Standard.

Methods: The HSTM was subjected to a series of ballistic impacts over the sternum and stomach. The pressure waves propagating through the torso were measured with sensors installed in the organs. A previously developed Human Torso Finite Element Model (HTFEM) was used to analyze the amount of tissue displacement during impact and compared with the amount of clay deformation predicted by a validated finite element model. All experiments and simulations were conducted at NIJ Standard test conditions.

Results: When normalized by the response at the lowest threat level (Level I), the clay deformations for the higher levels are relatively constant and range from 2.3 to 2.7 times that of the base threat level. However, the pressures in the HSTM increase with each test level and range from three to seven times greater than Level I depending on the organ.

Conclusions: The results demonstrate the abilities of the HSTM to discriminate between threat levels, impact conditions, and impact locations. The HTFEM and HSTM are capable of realizing pressure and displacement differences because of the level of protection, surrounding tissue, and proximity to the impact point. The results of this research provide insight into the transfer of energy and pressure wave propagation during ballistic impacts using a physical surrogate and computational model of the human torso.

From The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (A.C.M., E.E.W., J.C.R.), Laurel, Maryland; The R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center (J.V.O.), University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland; and Department of Mechanical Engineering (J.C.R.), The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland.

Received for publication October 4, 2006.

Accepted for publication November 2, 2007.

Supported by Office of Naval Research through NAVSEA, N00024-98-D-8124.

Address for reprints: Andrew C. Merkle, MS, The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, 11100 Johns Hopkins Road, Laurel, MD; email:

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.