For athletes young and old, strong protection against the effects of head-to-head collision is a must.
The injuries sustained from such a collision include mild concussions, scalp wounds, skull fractures and severe traumatic brain injury, which has been linked to the development of Alzheimer's disease in multiple studies.
Past studies also revealed that head-to-head hits may result in chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a severe degenerative brain disorder that affects both amateur and professional football players.
If such an event leads to severe injuries, finding an effective way to protect athletes is indeed urgent. Now, a new compression collar specifically designed for this exact purpose may possibly offer enhanced safety.
Known as the Q-Collar, the wearable neck device has been found to reduce the devastating effects of head-to-head collisions among high school football players and hockey players in two new studies.
Q-Collar, which is patented by Q30 Innovations, works by pressing lightly on the jugular vein to decrease the outflow of blood, increasing the brain's blood volume.
This bubble-wrap effect helps the brain fit better within the skull, lowering the energy absorbed by the brain during hits.
It also reduces the "slosh" or the slamming and twisting of the brain against the interior walls of the skull, which is known to cause mild traumatic brain injury.
The first study, which is featured in the Frontiers in Neurology and Neurotrauma journal, involved 15 hockey athletes who were outfitted with accelerometers that measure impacts. The participants were randomly assigned to wear the Q-Collar or not.
During the start of the season, researchers measured the microstructure of each participant's brain and its performance.
In the end, they found differences between the start and the end of the season for participants without the collar, while for those who wore it, there were no significant differences.
The follow-up study, which is published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, involved 42 American football players from two high schools in Greater Cincinnati.
Researchers allowed 21 players from St. Xavier High School to wear the collar during games. All of them were tested prior to the play to ensure that the lightweight Q-Collar fit properly.
The other 21 players, who were all from Moeller High School, did not wear the collar. Both groups were fitted with accelerometers to track every hit they sustained and were measured to determine the structure and function of each player's brain.
Again, researchers found that the players who wore the collar exhibited no statistically significant changes consistent with brain injury. On the other hand, athletes who did not wear the neck device displayed significant changes in their white matter.
The findings of both studies indicate early evidence that Q-Collar is effective in significantly reducing the impact of head-to-head collisions, says Tom Hoey, Q30 Innovations co-founder.
Dr. Greg Myer of Cincinnati Children's Hospital says the findings represent a potential approach in protecting the brain from changes sustained from sports-related injuries. He says they still have further investigations to conduct.
"But this device could be a real game-changer in helping athletes," adds Myer.