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Ergonomic assessment of enhanced protection under body armour combat shirt neck collars
  1. John Breeze1,
  2. C J Granger2,
  3. T D Pearkes3 and
  4. J C Clasper1,4
  1. 1Academic Department of Military Surgery and Trauma, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Birmingham Research Park, Birmingham, UK
  2. 23 Medical Regiment, Catterick, North Yorkshire, UK
  3. 319 Regiment Royal Artillery, Tidworth, Wiltshire, UK
  4. 4The Royal British Legion Centre for Blast Injury Studies at Imperial College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Maj John Breeze, Academic Department of Military Surgery and Trauma, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Birmingham Research Park, Vincent Drive, Birmingham B15 2SQ, UK; johno.breeze{at}


Introduction Combat neck injury due to explosively propelled fragments is a significant cause of mortality and long-term morbidity in UK soldiers deployed on current operations. Reinforcing the collar of the existing under body armour combat shirt (UBACS) has been suggested as a potential method for reducing the incidence of combat neck injury.

Method 20 soldiers serving in Afghanistan objectively compared three designs of enhanced protection UBACS (EP-UBACS) using 10 representative military tasks against a baseline of a standard UBACS. Each EP-UBACS design was trialled using three constituent materials: two layers of para-aramid felt, one layer of ultra high molecule weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) felt or two layers of a silk fabric. Subjective assessment of these nine configurations in terms of comfort, heat dissipation and overall acceptability were compared with the standard UBACS using a χ2 test.

Results All military tasks could be performed with all nine configurations of EP-UBACS. Although silk was the most comfortable material, it was not functionally practical in any of the three designs. Crossover collars incorporating UHMWPE or para-aramid were the only two of the nine configurations to demonstrate similar user acceptability to a standard UBACS.

Conclusions The EP-UBACS has the potential to provide neck protection without reducing performance incorporating materials analogous to either of the felts assessed in this study. The collar should provide stand-off from the skin to improve heat dissipation and comfort, which can be maximised by changing the current UBACS collar shape to one that crosses over at the front. Should a zip be desired, it should be moved to one side of the midline to reduce rubbing on the chin and be covered with ballistic protective material. Additional semi-circles of silk beneath the collar at the front and back would improve protection without affecting comfort.

  • Health Economics
  • Occupational & Industrial Medicine

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