Researchers test a collar to reduce sports-related head injuries

The Q-Collar--Courtesy of Q30 Innovations

Q-Collars may be an answer to the effects of sport-related head collisions, according to the results of a pair of studies of high school football and hockey players at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

The small, headband-like collar slips around the neck and puts pressure on the jugular vein, slowing the blood flow out of the brain, while the carotid artery continues delivering blood at a regular rate. This results in extra liquid surrounding the brain, lowering what is called brain "sloshing"--free movement of the brain around the cranium.

David Smith--who holds a financial interest in the results of this current research--first studied brain slosh in head-ramming bighorn sheep and woodpeckers, which both regularly experience high-speed cranial collisions. His research showed the rams' migration patterns have them hitting at higher altitudes where cerebral blood flow is higher and that woodpeckers use a long tongue to put pressure on the jugular vein to increase blood volume around the brain. Therefore, both experience less sloshing on impact.

According to the studies, those athletes who did not wear collars had "significant functional and structural changes to the white matter regions of the brain," an announcement explained. Those who did wear the collar did not have these same changes. Q30 Innovations, which designed the collars, funded this research.

The first study involved 15 hockey players from St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati. Half of the players wore a Q-Collar while the other half didn't. The results found the non-collar group showed microstructure and functional performance disruption in the brain. Athletes that did wear the collar did not have a "significant" difference. This study was published in Frontiers in Neurology | Neurotrauma.

A Q-Collar being worn by a football player--Courtesy of Cincinnati Children's

The follow-up study--published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine--involved 42 football players from two Cincinnati high schools. Again, the split was 50/50 between those wearing and not wearing the collar. The 21 students from St. Xavier High School wore collars while the other half from Moeller High School did not.

This second study was more involved and made use of accelerometers on the helmets of every player to measure every hit sustained. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was then used to understand the efficacy of the collar in preventing structural changes in the brain.

"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," said Greg Myer, PhD, director of sports medicine research at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, in the announcement. "We still have more data analysis and investigation to do, but this device could be a real game-changer in helping athletes."

The announcement also made note of Myer's previous research on brain slosh and the effect of altitude on football-related concussions. As cerebral blood flow rises at higher altitudes, the brain fits tighter in the skull thereby reducing the risk of concussion.

The Q-Collar has been licensed by Performance Sports Group for use in sports worldwide, and they have applied for FDA approval to market the device.

- here's the release