How many soldiers or police officers have had injuries or pain caused by wearing body armor?
Soldiers and law enforcement officers (LEOs) are often required to wear body armor, but rarely get any choice (zero choice for soldiers).
Understanding the pain caused by body armor is vital to staying healthy for your entire career and avoiding major injuries.
Shotstop® is deeply concerned with helping our community and national defenders find the best body armor, not just for their job, but for their health.
What is the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC)?
The DTIC is an organization that is under the Department of Defense (DOD) and is concerned with 3 areas of research and analysis; Defense Systems, Cyber-Security and Information Systems, and Homeland Defense and Security.
For the purpose of body armor, the DTIC has conducted an extensive analysis on what causes pain, where the pain is at, and many other characteristics about the issues with wearing body armor.
Which Factors Cause Injury From Body Armor?
There are probably dozens of reasons why someone could get hurt while wearing body armor, especially soldiers and LEOs. However, the DTIC has conducted their research on the top reasons for injury while wearing body armor.
According to Tomlinson JP, et.all. Age, physical fitness, and type of activities performed while wearing armor are the most common reasons for injury.
How Does Age Affect Injuries related to Body Armor?
For most of us, aging is not kind as we start to notice more joint pain, stiffness, and injuries. Years of wear and tear on a soldier's joints and back is not going to cause less pain and injuries, that’s why the military, much like professional sports, is a young man's/woman's game.
The study by the DTIC shows that older soldiers actually have less injuries during the 6-month testing period than soldiers younger than 24 years old. Why would that be? If your body is subject to wear and tear, older infantry soldiers should have more pain and injuries.
The study can be deceiving in that light because the only real explanation for older soldiers having less injuries is they do less physical work.
For example, if you’re an infantry soldier and get promoted to Sergeant First Class (E-7), you’re most likely working in administration and mostly work in sedentary conditions. Normally an E-7 is going to at least be 25 and have 7 years of experience as an infantryman.
However, a Private First-Class (E-2) is going to be doing all the physical training required to do the job. This level of activity while wearing body armor has caused 60% of infantry soldiers to suffer from injuries related to the added weight of body armor.
What are the 2 Types of Injury Categories Analyzed?
According to the DTIC, the two categories are Musculoskeletal and Other Injuries. Musculoskeletal injuries are the most common by far and include sprains, strains, overuse injuries, fractures, Tendonitis, traumatic injuries, and joint pain.
Other Injuries include contusions, blisters, cold injuries, abrasions, and any other injury not listed above.
The most common injuries for the soldiers tested were sprains, strains, and severe joint pain related to overuse with excess weight.
The number one injury related to these soldiers was foot and ankle injuries with almost 20% of all injuries. The next is knees (10%) and lower back (7%) due to the amount of weight from rucksacks, body armor, and weapons.
How Many Injuries are Related to Body Armor?
This is a difficult question to answer because there are so many factors involved in Musculoskeletal injuries. However, if we’re just concerned with this study by the DTIC, about 40% of soldiers suffer from injuries related to body armor and excess weight.
How Can Soldiers Prevent Musculoskeletal Injuries?
First, there is no one way to prevent all injuries from happening because the more stress you put on your body, the more likely you are to succumb to injury during your career.
The best way to prevent injuries related to body armor is to first, get in peak physical condition with daily exercise and stretching routine. For example, the research (pg. 601) shows that those soldiers who ran a faster 2-mile run had 20% less injuries than those who ran the slowest.
Secondly, you need to reduce the overall weight on your body because no matter what, you’re not going to get away with not carrying a rucksack.
As a soldier there are certain things that no matter what you have to carry and have on your person at all times.
Finally, wearing the right boots and socks will prevent many foot and ankle related injuries. Personally, I would stretch and alternate with heat and ice daily to prevent joint pain and injury.
What is the Best Body Armor for Soldiers?
If there is anything to be learned from the DTIC study, it’s that excess weight and overuse can cause injuries.
It’s also important to wear body armor that works with your body, instead of against it. For example, steel body armor is heavy and it takes a great plate carrier to keep the steel plate secure and in position.
The Ceramic plates that I wore as level 4 body armor in 2009 were lighter than steel, but it was so bulky that it was very difficult to move my arms, bend, or crouch.
The best body armor for soldiers needs to be lightweight, low-profile, and durable enough to take multiple hits without penetration.
How Can Shotstop® Help Prevent Injuries?
Based on the DTIC analysis, the best way to prevent injuries related to body armor is to wear less weight and be in better shape.
Shotstop® has the overall best body armor because no other body armor is lighter, has a lower-profile, and is more durable than our Duritium® technology.
If we can’t change the combat gear and weapons that you have to wear, there is only one solution to reduce the amount of weight you wear.
For many years, guys in the Special Operations career fields would just wear barebones plate carriers with smaller plates.
Fortunately, nobody has to wear less protection in order to reduce their weight. We have a Level 4 body armor plate that is only 4.5 lbs/plate and still less than an inch thick.
Duritium® Level IV+HA Body Armor
When it comes to Level 4 body armor, the most popular brands are made with AR500 steel. Those plates might look cool, but they’re anywhere between 8-15 lbs per plate.
If you're considering wearing upwards of 20-30 lbs of body armor (not including side plates), we strongly urge you to reconsider and save your knees, back, and ankles.
Our Duritium® Level IV+HA plate comes in two different cuts (SAPI, Shooters cut) and 4 different sizes to choose from based on the individual soldier’s body type and size.
The curve of the ballistic plate makes a huge difference in the overall comfort and mobility of the soldier. Our Duritium® plate is made to be a multi-curve plate to conform to the chest of the soldier.
The fact is that we’re not Ken dolls, our bodies are not flat, and we have unique curves and chest sizes.
The multi-curve plate is only 0.9” thick, providing a lower profile than any other level 4 plate you’ll find online.
Female soldiers will also benefit greatly from the Duritium® Level IV+HA plate because it’s the best option for women with larger busts sizes.