A couple of years ago, we first heard about a neck band designed to protect athletes from concussions by essentially making their brains bigger. Now, a new study indicates that it does indeed work, protecting wearers against damage caused by smaller hits along with the big ones.

Invented by Dr. David Smith from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, the device is now known as the Q-Collar.

It works by gently applying pressure to the jugular vein, reducing blood flow out of the brain. This increases the blood volume of the organ, essentially making it larger, so it takes up more room within the cranium. As a result, when the wearer receives impacts to the head, the brain has less room to slosh around. This means it isn't able to whack itself against the inside of the skull with as much force, minimizing the amount of damage that can occur.

In two separate previous studies, it had been determined that use of the neck band resulted in an 83 percent reduction in the number of torn brain fibers in a standard concussion model. The new study, however, was intended to look at how it protected users from the cumulative effect of a series of smaller non-concussion impacts – these can still cause brain damage over time.

To that end, Cincinnati Children's Dr. Gregory Myer and colleagues studied a total of 46 female high school soccer players, all of whom wore head-mounted accelerometers to track impacts throughout the soccer season, and 24 of whom also wore the Q-Collar during that time. At three points over a six-moth period, which included the three-month game season along with a subsequent three-month rest period, all of the girls underwent neuroimaging of their brains.

It was found that while both groups received a similar number and magnitude of impacts, the players who didn't wear the device experienced significant changes to the white matter structure of the brain, while those who did wear it experienced little if any. Fortunately for the girls who didn't wear the collar, their white matter mostly returned to normal by the end of the three-month rest period. That said, such injuries would obviously still be best avoided in the first place.

A paper on the new study was recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The Q-Collar is being developed by Q30 Innovations and has not yet been approved for use in the US, although it may be available in Canada as of the first quarter of next year.

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