Minimum depths to essential structures in a UK military population using computed tomography: application to stab-resistant body armour



Edged weapons are a known domestic threat to the police forces of the UK. This threat is mitigated by wearing stab-resistant body armour that is either worn overtly or covertly depending on role. Although the UK military have traditionally focused their body armour design upon ballistic and fragmentation threats, future roles may require protection against an edged weapon threat. Since 2017, UK police body armour requirements for anatomical coverage for both edged weapon and ballistic threats are now based upon the requirements of UK military. This revised coverage may need additional research to determine minimum distances to essential structures.


Three entry locations and penetration vectors were chosen using the limited available information in the literature, in combination with a specialist in edged weapons defence. One hundred twenty CT trauma scans of male military service personnel were subsequently analysed to ascertain minimum distances from skin surface to the first structure encountered that is included in essential coverage (heart, aorta, vena cava, liver and spleen) at 3 specific entry points.


Individuals ranged between 18 and 46 years, with a mean body mass index of 24.8. The absolute minimum depth from skin surface to a structure within the auspice of essential coverage was 17 mm to the liver in entry point 3 and 19 mm to the heart in entry point 2.


Minimum distances to critical structures were significantly larger than those described in previous studies on civilians. This study will be used to supplement existing evidence to support existing UK police requirements for stab-resistant body armour. Using the weapon entry sites and vectors described in this study, overmatching to a behind armour depth of 17 mm would cover all of this population in this study.

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The authors would like to thank Mr. K Godhania, Institute of Filipino Martial Arts UK for his advice on likely weapon entry points.


No sources of funding external to the UK Ministry of Defence were received.

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Correspondence to J. Breeze.

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Due to the anonymised dataset analysed and the nature of the results, further approval by an ethical committee and informed consent of the patients who had originally undergone the CT scans was not required.

Conflict of interest

The authors are members of the UK Ministry of Defence, and permission to publish was obtained prior to submission. The authors of this manuscript know of no known conflicts of interest in the conducting, writing up or promulgation of the findings of this study.

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Breeze, J., Lewis, E.A. & Mahoney, P.F. Minimum depths to essential structures in a UK military population using computed tomography: application to stab-resistant body armour. Int J Legal Med 134, 691–695 (2020).

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  • CT
  • Stab
  • Police, military
  • Body armour