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Face Guards on Military Helmets Would Help Deflect Blast Impact, Reduce Facial Injuries

ROSEMONT, Illinois – Protected by stronger and better body armor, soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan are sustaining fewer torso-related injuries and more devastating trauma to the head and facial area, as the insurgency increasingly uses rocket-propelled grenades (RPG-7s) in their attacks. Dr. Sabri T. Shuker, former head of oral and maxillofacial surgery at Baghdad Medical City - Iraq's largest medical facility - believes adding a face guard to military helmets would help deflect blasts, thereby reducing the number and severity of these injuries.

In an article appearing in the March 2006 issue of the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Dr. Shuker reviews the types of injuries caused by RPG-7s in war and terrorist attacks. He contends it is vital that in addition to managing the treatment of unprecedented types of facial injuries, physicians must place greater emphasis on prevention.

Facial RPG-7 injuries result primarily from the direct impact of the blast or shock wave, while flesh burns are caused by the secondary and tertiary effects of the blast. "Every effort must be made to protect individuals against the blast of RPG-7 injuries and other blast injuries," Shuker insists.

"This is not a difficult matter," he continues, "because any solid object interposed between an individual and the source of explosion reflects much of the excess pressure and deflects the known dynamic pressure of an RPG-7 blast. A helmet with facial protection attached to it, in a half circle around the face, in a strong transparent material will protect a great deal of injuries."

Originally developed in the USSR around 1960, RPG-7s found their way into the inventories of 40 armies by the end of the cold war. They now number in the millions. Because of the abundant supply, each costs less than an M.16 rifle. An RPG-7 can reach a target as far away as 360 yards and weighs less than 14 lbs."One cannot understand as surgeons and medical personnel in a war, why only things relating to management are vital, without attention to prevention and protection," Dr. Shuker concludes.

Note: Although this article appears in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, it does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.

Saving Faces, Changing Lives - The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), the professional organization representing more than 8,000 oral and maxillofacial surgeons in the United States, supports its members' ability to practice their specialty through education, research, and advocacy. AAOMS members comply with rigorous continuing education requirements and submit to periodic office examinations, ensuring the public that all office procedures and personnel meet stringent national standards

SOURCE: American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons

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