Background: A major threat in combat scenarios is the ‘behind armor blunt trauma’ (BABT) of a non-penetrating ballistic impact with a ballistic protective plate (BPP). This impact results in pressure waves that propagate through tissues, potentially causing life-threatening damage. To date, there is no standardized procedure for rapid virtual testing of the effectiveness of BPP designs. The objective of this study was to develop a novel, anatomically-accurate, finite element modeling framework, as a decision-making tool to evaluate and rate the biomechanical efficacy of BPPs in protecting the torso from battlefield-acquired non-penetrating impacts. Methods: To simulate a blunt impact with a BPP, two types of BPPs representing generic designs of threat-level III and IV plates, and a generic 5.56 mm bullet were modeled, based on their real dimensions, physical and mechanical characteristics (plate level-III is smaller, thinner, and lighter than plate level-IV). The model was validated by phantom testing. Results: Plate level-IV induced greater strains and stresses in the superficial tissues post the ballistic impact, due to the fact that it is larger, thicker and heavier than plate level-III; the shock wave which is transferred to the superficial tissues behind the BPP is greater in the case of a non-penetrating impact. For example - the area under volumetric tissue exposure histograms of strains and stresses for the skin and adipose tissues were 16.6–19.2% and 17.3–20.3% greater in the case of plate level-IV, for strains and stresses, respectively. The validation demonstrates a strong agreement between the physical phantom experiment and the simulation, with only a 6.37% difference between them. Conclusions: Our modelling provides a versatile, powerful testing framework for both industry and clients of BPPs at the prototype design phase, or for quantitative standardized evaluations of candidate products in purchasing decisions and bids.
- Ballistic impact
- Behind armor blunt trauma (BABT)
- Finite element modelling
- Protective plate
- Thoracic injury