Will This Device Actually Protect Athletes Brains? The Premier Lacrosse League’s Michael Sowers, a star player, suffered his fifth concussion in 2021. His primary care physician advised him to think about retiring, but a different doctor offered a suggestion that would keep him in the game.
Sowers was advised to wear a silicone collar created by a business for which Dr. Wayne Olan, a neurosurgeon at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., serves as a medical advisor. The $199 Q-Collar gadget limits blood flow from the head and, if the company’s science claims are true, provides the brain with an additional layer of padding.
Dr. Olan, who also coaches high school lacrosse, said in an interview, “I can’t think of anything we can do that is so simple but also so vital.”
Will This Device Actually Protect Athletes Brains
But does the Q-Collar, whose history includes an original analysis of a woodpecker’s structure, genuinely shield the brain? It is being worn by football players on more than a dozen college and NFL teams as they look for anything—anything—that can keep them safe.
Nevertheless, a thorough analysis of government records and academic studies by The New York Times, as well as conversations with academics who have looked into research into the Q-Collar, have raised severe concerns about the device’s scientific foundation.
The Q-Collar may encourage athletes to take risks they otherwise wouldn’t, according to some experts in brain trauma and neurology, rather than making them safer.
James Smoliga, a professor of physiology at High Point University in North Carolina, who has spearheaded a campaign against the gadget in academic journals, stated that the concern with a device like this is that people will feel more protected, play differently, and behave differently.
The 25-year-old lacrosse star Sowers appeared to support this worry. He answered, “I can go out there and play my game.” I need not be afraid of making contact.
The manufacturer of the Q-Collar, Q30 Innovations, and authorities like Dr. Olan stand by their assertions that the device can make players who wear it safer by reducing any propensities for recklessness through rule changes and safety practices.
The company’s chief executive, Tom Hoey, stated in an interview that “we’re not talking about concussions.” We’re talking about repetitive strikes, he continued, adding that the Q-Collar lessens the damage and alterations to the brain brought on by such impacts.
When the F.D.A. certified the Q-Collar for sale as a medical device in the United States last year, Westport, Connecticut-based Q30 Innovations experienced a big victory.
According to the agency, studies sponsored by the corporation had suggested that it might prevent brain tissue damage. The International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation authorized the use of the Q-Collar in competition in November.
It is worn by Meghan Klingenberg, a National Women’s Soccer League player with the Portland Thorns. Football players on more than a dozen collegiate teams, such as Auburn and Alabama, as well as 12 to 15 N.F.L. teams, share this trait. Many high school teams have also started using collars.
The device, a soft, lightweight collar that fits around the lower neck, is snug enough to restrict just a tiny amount of blood flow but is not uncomfortable.
This season, Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Drue Tranquill began donning the Q-Collar. Last year, a brutal hit on a punt play put him in the National Football League’s concussion observation program.
In a recent interview, Tranquill stated, “I wanted to defend myself. However, the FDA published a summary of its conclusion in early October that was much soberer than the announcement of the clearance in February 2021. The summary, which the government released to support its science, contained a number of buyers’ beware cautions regarding the important study that served as the basis for its clearance.
The agency cited the studies’ reliance on imaging technologies as being unclear. These investigations showed that high school football and soccer players who did not use the Q-Collar under specific conditions showed minor alterations in their brain tissue, regardless of whether they displayed concussion symptoms.
These differences from alterations in the brain tissue of the athletes who did wear it were only visible with advanced imaging techniques.
The F.D.A. claimed that no connection had been “validated” between the changes the research discovered an actual brain damage. The scientists discovered something they had not initially claimed to be looking for, according to the government, thereby increasing the uncertainty of the findings.
According to Matt Tenan, director of the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute at West Virginia University, “They’re finding stuff, but it feels like noise.”
He and other skeptics point to contradictions in the Q-Collar studies and contest the device’s central tenet: that by squeezing the jugular vein in the neck, more blood is contained in the head, mimicking the way the yolk of an egg is surrounded by the white.
The business cites the 18 published studies that back the theory while also admitting that more study has to be done.
A possible profit from the more than $30 million and countless hours of research already devoted to determining the effectiveness of the Q-Collar are at risk.
The health and safety of millions of athletes, both professional and amateur, of all ages, as well as potential soldiers, who could one day wear a gadget that might only offer a false sense of security, must also be considered.
Origin Of Q-Collar
After learning what he thought to be the secret to a woodpecker’s brain health — a neck muscle that contracts and traps blood in their brains when they peck, at trees, the ground, or the siding on your house — inventor and former internal medicine doctor Dr. David Smith came up with the idea for the Q-Collar.
The notion went against current knowledge about birds. Rather than jugular vein compression, ornithologists have found that beaks and spongy skulls with distinctive musculature provide cushioning. Additionally, dead woodpeckers’ brains had evidence of brain injury.
Yet there is a strong desire for apparatus that can shield users from traumatic brain injury and make risky activities feel secure.
The F.D.A. specialists underlined the urgent need for gadgets that “may” shield the brain from minor sports-related damages as well as the Q-low Collar’s risk.
The agency declared that “the likely benefits outweigh the likely dangers.”
Among the prominent backers of the Q-Collar is Dr. Julian Bailes, a neurosurgeon of the NorthShore Medical Group who was a pioneer in the study of brain injuries in sports. Dr. Bailes was represented by Alec Baldwin in the film “Concussion.”