When agencies or departments are evaluating their options of body armor, the focus tends to be on the PRICE and PROTECTION LEVEL. Although these are very important factors, another factor to carefully consider is the health risks to personnel.
Studies show that U.S. ground troops today carry an average of 27 pounds of personal protective gear (body armor and helmet). This is in addition to the other weight from weapons, ammunition, water, batteries, and other gear, totaling somewhere between 90 to 140 pounds in combat. In its Super Soldiers series, the Center for New American Security reported that “soldiers as young as 25 have retired due to degenerative arthritis from heavy loads. Almost one-third of medical evacuations in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2004 to 2007 were due to spinal, connective tissue, or musculoskeletal injuries, twice the rate of ballistic injuries.”
Police officers suffer too when it comes to body armor weight. A 2016 study published by the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine stated, “the additional external load associated with this equipment has been associated with increased rates of injury.”
Short-term injury and long-term health risks associated with body armor impact the readiness of our soldiers and officers, but also increase medical costs, insurance rates, early retirements, and disability costs.