Ring Around the Collar


The NeuroShield collar hopes to address head injuries, but has yet to be scientifically tested on lacrosse players. The product has been approved for use in Canada, but not yet in the United States.

Perhaps you’ve noticed it…a new accessory adorned by one of the NFL’s best players, All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers.

It looks like a thin collar that he wears around his neck. But it’s not a fashion accessory. More importantly, it’s designed to serve as a safety supplement providing head protection for a player who has missed 10 games over the past three years due to concussion.

The questions are expected. How can this unobtrusive item, called the Q Collar, provide head protection and possibly thwart concussions? Is this true? And if it works in football, will it also work in lacrosse?

In short, those questions have yet to be answered. This is what we do know.

The technology, which we will explain shortly, was originally developed by a company called Q30 Innovations, based in Connecticut. Dr. David Smith was the principal inventor after being inspired by the woodpecker. Smith observed that the woodpecker can repeatedly smack his head against a tree and then fly away with no ill effects. He studied the bird further to understand the secret behind its tolerance.

Q30 entered a licensing agreement with Bauer in 2015, providing the rights to the technology for use in all sports. The technology could also be utilized by military personnel, industrial workers, and others at risk for head impacts.

Bauer, the parent company of Cascade Lacrosse, is marketing the collar under the brand name NeuroShield, and says that its product uses the body’s own physiology to help stabilize the brain by applying light pressure to the neck. By pinching, or compressing, the jugular vein with this pressure, the collar slightly increases blood volume in the venous structures around the brain and subsequently, reduces the movement of the brain within the skull.

Bauer states that the product is the result of more than seven years of research, development and in-field studies with hockey, football, and soccer players, all conducted by Q30 Innovations. No testing has been completed yet with male or female lacrosse players.

“This is the first product to offer protection for the brain from the inside out,” said Jamie Eno, senior director at NeuroShield.

The technology in the collar has been approved for sale in Canada, but it hasn't been approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States.  

“We’re working as diligently as we can to get this to market, but we can’t advertise in the U.S. until we get FDA clearance,” Eno said.

Predictably, the hockey market has been Bauer’s primary target in Canada.

“Our focus has been on hockey, but we’ve had many inquiries from parents for other sports,” Eno said.

Dr. Ruben Echemendia, a concussion expert on US Lacrosse’s Sports Science and Safety Committee, has reviewed the scientific research involved in the development of the collar, and has clear concerns.

“The research on this collar is so scarce that we cannot evaluate the claims made regarding utility, one way or the other, at this time,” Echemendia said. “There’s no body of research to suggest that it protects the brain from injury.”

Bauer’s website contends that the small amount of increased blood volume created by NeuroShield has no negative impact on health or athletic performance. It also states that the completed studies show the device to be effective at reducing structural changes to the brain due to sports-related impacts.

Echemendia cautions that these claims are premature.

“In truth, it is my opinion that the way the product is being promoted is potentially misleading,” he said. “Scientifically, we’re caught in a never-never land due to the lack of research. It’s simply not ready for prime time.”

Dr. Margot Putukian, chair of US Lacrosse’s Sports Science and Safety Committee and a member of the NFL’s head, neck and spine committee, says that the product is on the NFL’s radar.

“We did review the collar, given that it is being used by one of the NFL players” Putukian said, “but we did not endorse or make other decisions to the effectiveness or safety of the product.”

Smith, the inventor, remains undaunted. In fact, in an ESPN interview last year, he welcomed the scrutiny.

“We're not trying to hide this from anybody,” he said.  “If there is something wrong with this thing, please knock us off this mountain, because we want this to be safe.”

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