Q-Collar Could Help Reduce Concussions in Football Players

View all blog posts under Articles

Among the available jobs with a sport management degree is that of athletic director at a school. In this job, whether you are working for a major university, a high school, or any other type of educational institution, the safety of the students under your charge should be your primary concern. Even if you work for a professional sports organization, you should still be aware of any issues that could affect your players’ health.

In recent years, concussions among football players have been a cause for alarm. According to CNN, there were 271 diagnosed concussions in the NFL in 2015, a significant increase over the 206 that were diagnosed in 2014. Players who repeatedly incur head trauma are at a greater risk for developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease.

A number of methods to prevent player concussions have been proposed, but the Q-Collar is a unique idea that merits closer consideration. What is the Q-Collar, how does it work, and could it be the solution that football teams have been waiting for?

The Q-Collar: What It Is and How It Works

According to Forbes, the Q-Collar is “a band-like flexible neck collar.” Its goal is to reduce the effects of “brain slosh,” which is when the brain is damaged as it knocks against the skull’s interior during an impact. The collar gently compresses the neck, applying slight pressure to the jugular veins and the neck muscles. The design creates a sort of “bubble wrap” for the brain by increasing blood volume in the skull.

“Basically you’re putting a kink in the hose on the [blood] outflow,” said Gregory Myer, Director of Research for the Division of Sports Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, as quoted in Sports Illustrated. “What that immediately does is create a backfill in the brain.”

The Forbes report on the Q-Collar brought out that the notion gained its inspiration from nature. Some animals, such as head-ramming sheep and woodpeckers, endure repeated significant head impacts without being injured. The sheep can increase blood volume in the skull, and the woodpeckers use their tongues to suppress their jugular veins to raise pressure in them.

The Q-Collar’s Effectiveness

While the principle behind the Q-Collar is sound, whether it will have the desired effect merits further research. Initial studies have indicated that the device has promise.

Forbes reported on one such study: “The study, led by Greg Myer, Ph.D., FACSM, director of sports medicine research at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, revealed biochemical changes in specialized MRI scans from players who did not wear the neck collar during the 2015 high school football season. Yet those players who wore the collar demonstrated no detectable changes on these same MRI scans during the 2015 season.”

According to Sports Illustrated, studies to measure the efficacy of the Q-Collar used sensors in players’ helmets to detect when the player received a hit. Then, MRIs were used to determine whether the players’ brains had undergone any structural changes that could indicate brain damage.

Too Good to Be True?

While the Q-Collar is promising, it is not without potential risks. Forbes noted that chronic gentle compression to jugular veins could increase the risk of players incurring blood clots.

The Forbes article went on to explain another risk: “redistribution — and corresponding net reduction — of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain…might also theoretically increase the risk for impact forces of the brain against the skull. This physiologic effect could lead to elevation of intracranial pressure with a corresponding reduction in cerebral perfusion pressure, both of which could be life threatening in the setting of a traumatic brain injury.”

No blood clots or other problems have thus far been reported with use of the Q-Collar, but the device will continue to be tested by its developers, who are striving to make it as effective and safe as possible.

Preventing Concussions in Football

The Q-Collar is only one potential piece of the puzzle when it comes to protecting football players from brain injuries. Previous efforts to prevent concussions have centered on outfitting players with snug and well-padded helmets. However, Sports Illustrated noted that, “while helmets have significantly reduced lacerations and skull fractures, their ability to prevent brain injury is limited.”

Still, it is possible that the right helmet might help to prevent concussions. Over two years ago, a pediatric neurosurgeon in Seattle set out with a couple of associates to “reimagine the football helmet and reduce concussions in the sport,” as one Forbes article put it. Together, they developed Zero1, a helmet with a soft outer shell and an inner structure designed to disperse force. The NFL, as well as prominent former NFL players, supports the helmet’s development.

According to Digital Trends, the Zero1 ranked highest in the NFL Players Association 2017 Helmet Laboratory performance test, which pitted 33 top helmets against each other. As the Digital Trends article went on to note, “More than 25 NFL teams are expected to wear the Zero1 helmet during their upcoming pre-season activities.”

Other ways to reduce the occurrence of brain injuries in football players may involve regulatory changes and education efforts that encourage players to use the safest practices possible when they’re on the field.

Your Role in Improving Player Safety

A timeline from PBS shows that the NFL first turned its attentions to concussions in 1994. However, at that time, knee injuries, drugs, and steroids were thought to be of much greater importance. Concussions were labeled as nothing more than an “occupational risk.”  It wasn’t until 2009 that an NFL spokesman openly acknowledged the long-term risks associated with concussions. Over the years since then, the league has taken progressive steps to promote player safety.

Further advances in protecting football players are unlikely to occur unless qualified individuals speak up as advocates for athletes and the teams they work for. As you pursue your Adelphi University Online Master of Science in Sport Management, you may acquire the knowledge and skills you need to make a positive impact in the sports world.