Materials have been applied to the thoracic wall of anaesthetised experimental animals exposed to blast overpressure to investigate the coupling of direct stress waves into the thorax and the relative contribution of compressive stress waves and gross thoracic compression to lung injury. The ultimate purpose of the work is to develop effective personal protection from the primary effects of blast overpressure--efficient protection can only be achieved if the injury mechanism is identified and characterized. Foam materials acted as acoustic couplers and resulted in a significant augmentation of the visceral injury; decoupling and elimination of injury were achieved by application of a high acoustic impedance layer on top of the foam. In vitro experiments studying stress wave transmission from air through various layers into an anechoic water chamber showed a significant increase in power transmitted by the foams, principally at high frequencies. Material such as copper or resin bonded Kevlar incorporated as a facing upon the foam achieved substantial decoupling at high frequencies--low frequency transmission was largely unaffected. An acoustic transmission model replicated the coupling of the blast waves into the anechoic water chamber. The studies suggest that direct transmission of stress waves plays a dominant role in lung parenchymal injury from blast loading and that gross thoracic compression is not the primary injury mechanism. Acoustic decoupling principles may therefore be employed to reduce the direct stress coupled into the body and thus reduce the severity of lung injury--the most simple decoupler is a high acoustic impedance material as a facing upon a foam, but decoupling layers may be optimized using acoustic transmission models. Conventional impacts producing high body wall velocities will also lead to stress wave generation and transmission--stress wave effects may dominate the visceral response to the impact with direct compression and shear contributing little to the aetiology of the injury.