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Helmets may be giving soldiers headaches: study

November 9, 2011

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Baltimore – Headaches – potentially caused by heavy helmets – are a major reason why soldiers leave the war zone in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to research (.pdf file) from Johns Hopkins University.

Researchers reviewed the records of 985 military personnel evacuated due to headaches from 2004 to 2009 and found that post-concussion headaches and migraines, often caused by physical trauma, were the most common headaches that resulted in evacuation. About two-thirds of evacuated personnel never returned to war, researchers said. Soldiers most likely to return to war are officers, whose jobs are less physically demanding, and women, who often do not have combat roles.

Researchers said many of the headaches resulted from damage to or pressure on the occipital nerve in the back of the head, and may be linked to the heavy Kevlar helmets solders wear while on patrol.

The study appeared online Oct. 12 in the journal Cephalalgia.

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