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    Life-saving technology may help prevent deadly heat injuries for troops – ‘This is the future.’



    Story by Maddi Langweil 

    Medical Research and Development Command

    Heat injuries can be a silent enemy to a Service Member working in hot, humid climates. As the heat climbs, the threat of having a heat stroke, heat exhaustion or debilitating heat cramps can increase, taking a Service Member out of the fight. The U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine has come up with a novel solution— the Heat Illness Prevention System known as HIPS.

    The HIPS is a next-generation technology that provides unit leaders real-time visibility into a Service Member’s heat illness risk while in the field. The heat illness risk status of individuals who are operating in hot environments can be closely monitored by looking at heart rate, skin temperature, estimated core temperature and gait stability.

    “Our system has enabled us to alert to a heat illness before it happens and be able to take action before somebody falls over and has a severe heat injury,” said Mark Buller, Ph.D., a Senior Principal Investigator in the Thermal & Mountain Medicine Division at USARIEM.

    The HIPS has three parts: the sensor, the smarts (the algorithms), and real-time viewing applications. The sensor is a simple light-weight device worn around the chest up against the skin, like many commercial training systems. But the difference is the technology within the device. The algorithms in the device will identify how hot an individual is getting and their risk of suffering a heat illness. The sensor is linked to a secure mobile application that accurately tracks the heat risk status of an individual, squad or even a company-sized element. When the device is paired with a geolocation capable device or the Soldier Monitoring System, leadership can view both the location and heat risk state of their units.

    “On the app, we can see the changing heart rates and other variables,” said Emma Atkinson, a Biomedical Researcher for TMMD. “The system is programed to sense when someone is approaching higher than appropriate heat exposure levels. We will see green, yellow and red colors on the screen indicating how our Service Members are doing.”

    Since 2018, the HIPS device has been continuously developed to accurately detect, alert and help those working in higher temperatures. Over the last three years, Buller and his team of researchers have been working with the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina. With the Marines, the team has been able to collect data on the final 56-hour Crucible over the last few years.

    “We have about 14,000 examples of high-risk training events, a lot of trainees but also a lot of data from the Marines at Parris Island as well,” Buller said.

    With the large data set, the team has been able to advance the heat strain index— developed using the heat cases that actually occurred during training events compared to those who did not. Now, there is a correlation between the heat strain index to the number of heat cases.

    “We demonstrated that using this heat strain index, which is a combination of heart rate, skin temperature, and estimated core temperature, we can pick out all the heat-related illnesses. This is the first time a heat strain index has been validated against real heat cases, and this allows us to have confidence in a monitoring system such as HIPS,” Atkinson said.

    The Marine Corps has integrated the device into some training events with the goal of keeping Marines actively engaged in training and providing leaders increased situational awareness with the ability to identify heat illness before it occurs. Every recruit participating in the Crucible wears HIPS and is monitored by Drill Instructors and leadership throughout the event.

    In the future, Buller and his team have bigger plans for the device by learning the individual.

    “We’d like to get down to the individual with the science, so now we can predict when an individual is likely going to experience a heat illness,” Buller said. “This will be a transition from identifying risk for the group to the individual.”

    If heat cases can be predicted to the individual level, Buller says, it will improve the whole system and the reliability of it. For example, when a red flag comes up, it will indicate that within the next ten minutes this individual will highly be likely to experience a heat illness.

    “This is the future,” Atkinson said. “This is a life-saving device that can prevent heat-related illness for many of our military personnel.”

    USARIEM is a subordinate command of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command under the Army Futures Command. USARIEM is internationally recognized as the DOD's premier laboratory for Warfighter health and performance research and focuses on environmental medicine, physiology, physical and cognitive performance, and nutrition research. Located at the Natick Soldier` Systems Center in Natick, Massachusetts, USARIEM's mission is to optimize Warfighter health and performance through biomedical research.



    Date Taken: 02.29.2024
    Date Posted: 02.29.2024 14:03
    Story ID: 464999
    Location: NATICK, MA, US

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