The US Food and Drug Administration approved a device last week that may help prevent traumatic brain injuries in athletes by clamping down on blood vessels in the neck.
Odd, right? But it might have real potential. By slightly restricting blood flow through the internal jugular veins, the device, called the Q-Collar, increases blood volume in the skull, thereby limiting movement of the brain inside of the skull, which experts believe is what generally causes traumatic brain injuries.
As new research on brain injuries continues to emerge, experts have increasingly focused on ways to minimize the damage from repeated subconcussive impacts, which have been indicted for likely causing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the degenerative brain disease that has notoriously affected football players and that results from cumulative damage over time.
To assess the safety and effectiveness of the Q-Collar, the FDA ran a series of studies, including a prospective, longitudinal on 284 high school American football players that used pre- and post-season MRI scans and accelerometer data to track structural changes in the subjects’ brains that occurred throughout a season of play. The changes found affected deep white matter regions of the brain related to electrical signal transmission and were associated with repeated head impacts.
Significant changes were found in the brains of 73% of the no-collar group compared with 23% of the Q-Collar group.
Another study looked at female soccer players and had similar findings: The no-collar group, in general, had significant white matter changes, while the Q-Collar group did not. The soccer study, however, included another MRI three months post-season, which found that the white mater changes had either resolved or partially resolved, leaving the question of whether the Q-Collar helps prevent the cumulative damage that leads to CTE.
It’s important to note that the Q-Collar is in no way an adequate replacement for a helmet and other appropriate protective gear, but it is a cool piece of gear that seems promising and might (hopefully)
have benefits in a real and very scary corner of the impact and action sports worlds.
The Q-Collar is already for sale in Canada and is pending approval in Europe and the UK. Information about availability in the US will be available soon at https://q30innovations.com/
More information about the Q-Collar and its FDA approval is available in the FDA press release