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What are the collars NFL players are wearing in their necks?

As the debate about how to make the game of American football safer continues to intensify, there is one new piece of hardware that’s caught the eye of fans, players and coaches alike this season.

As the debate about how to make the game of American football safer continues to intensify, there is one new piece of hardware that’s caught the eye of fans, players and coaches alike this season.

In an effort to reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury (TBI) the league has begun to evaluate the implementation of a collar to be used by all players in the league. Join us for a look at what it’s all about.

The problem of TBI and how the Q-Collar can help

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, when a person is hit in the head or body, it may result in what is known as a traumatic brain injury, or TBI. As per studies, the leading cause of TBIs today are blunt force trauma accidents, which are extremely common in sports and least of all in the NFL. As for what actually happens when a TBI is sustained, it can be described simply as when the individual’s brain moves unrestrained inside of their skull according to the FDA. A common term for this movement is “slosh.”

This is where the Q-Collar comes in. According to the FDA, the Q-Collar compresses against the jugular veins in an athlete’s neck, which in turn leads to an increase in blood flow to the skull. This increased volume of blood inside the skull then “creates a tighter fit of the brain inside the skull,” which on a practical level restricts the “slosh” movement. Interestingly, it’s not only NFL players who have begun to use the Q-Collar. Indeed, late last year, the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command awarded Q30 Innovations - the Q-Collar’s manufacturer - a $2.8 million contract to fund research and development of the Q-Collar to determine if it can reduce blast-induced TBIs among soldiers.

What’s been said about the Q-Collar?

While the Q-Collar is undoubtedly a step in the right direction where player safety is concerned, it’s worth noting that the FDA itself has since advised that the product should not be worn by athletes with certain conditions and furthermore, that it can’t prevent concussions or serious head injuries. As if to punctuate that point, we recently saw Luke Kuechly suffer a concussion while wearing a Q-Collar. Indeed, even some doctors like Adil Hussain who works in physical medicine and rehabilitation with the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in California, indicated that the Q-Collar can be considered similar to a seat belt, but for the brain. That’s to say it can definitely help, but only up to a point. It is this point in fact, that has become an area of concern for many experts in the field, who believe athletes are overestimating the Q-Collar’s ability to prevent concussions or worse. To be clear, there is no research to support that idea.

And the FDA, what its stance on the Q-Collar?

According to reports back in October last year, the FDA expressed concerns about part of the study that led to the Q-Collar’s approval in a summary of its decision. The study in question emphasized the difference in brain tissue changes detected in scans for athletes wearing the collar versus those that weren’t. The conclusion was, that those who did wear the collar had fewer changes. As per the report, the FDA indicated that the connection between changes in study participants’ brain tissue and real brain injuries had yet to be “validated.”

So, is the Q-Collar useful or not?

Here’s the thing: On one side we’ve got experts who do agree, that the venture to create protective devices which in turn can prevent brain movement inside the skull is a worthwhile one, studies which endorse the Q-Collar’s ability to effectively do so, aren’t. As a point to note, said experts have highlighted the specific data from the study which suggests scans are difficult to interpret and as such, an accurate conclusion can’t be draw about results. In light of that, it would be accurate to say that the jury is still out. On the other hand, given the number of athletes from varying sports who are currently affiliated with Q30 including Eagles RB, Boston Scott and Cowboys RB Tony Pollard, it’s highly likely we’ll be seeing more of the device in times to come.


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