Head injuries are a growing problem in contact sports such as football and hockey. But researchers hope that a small, c-shaped neck collar may, one day, be able to limit some of those injuries.
It’s called a Q-collar. The collar works by pressing gently on the jugular vein in the neck. Doing that slows the flow of blood out of the brain which results in more blood volume surrounding the brain. That extra blood helps cushion the skull from hitting the brain when an athlete’s head is hit in a sports collision, something known as the “slosh effect.” The Q-collar is said to be the first technology that attempts to reduce mild traumatic head injuries by using the body’s own internal physiology rather than through the use of external protections, such as helmets
Studies are positive for reducing head injuries
For a preliminary study, published in Frontiers in Neurology | Neurotrauma, fifteen high school hockey players were watched; 7 wore the collar and 8 did not. Results from imaging and electrophysiological testing indicated that athletes who didn’t wear the collar showed a disruption of brain performance. Those wearing the collar showed no significant change in their brains, despite similar head impacts.
In a follow-up study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, 21 high school football players wore the collar and another 21 did not. All of the athletes’ helmets were outfitted with an accelerometer, a computer chip-which tracked every hit sustained during the pre-and post-season. Researchers used advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to determine whether the collar prevented structural changes to the brain following a season of head impacts. The results of this larger study showed similar protective effects of collar wear during the football season.
“The results of the studies demonstrate a potential approach to protecting the brain from changes sustained within a competitive football and hockey season, as evidenced by brain imaging,” says Greg Myer, PhD., the lead author of both studies. “We still have more data analysis and investigation to do, but this device could be a real game-changer in helping athletes.”
Hope to have the collar available in mid-2017
Performance Sports Group, which has licensed the Q-collar technology, has applied to the Food and Drug Administration for approval of the collar. It hopes to launch of the device in Canada during spring/summer of 2017 and make it available in the U.S. after receiving FDA approval.