Michael Sowers was a superstar of Premier Lacrosse League and suffered his fifth concussion in 2021. He was told by his doctor that he could consider quitting, but another doctor suggested that he would continue in the field.

As a consultant medical doctor, Dr. Wayne Olan suggested that Sowers use a silicone collar to protect his neck. Q-Collar is a $199 device that restricts blood flow from the head. If the science presented by the company can be accepted, it also provides additional cushioning for the brain.

“I can’t think of anything we can do that is so simple but also so important,” In an interview, Dr. Olan also said that he coaches lacrosse high school teams.

The origin of Q-Collar is a unique analysis of anatomy from a woodpecker. But, does it actually protect your brain? More than two dozen football players from colleges and leagues across the nation wear it. As they seek out something that will keep them safe, more than twenty-six college football and N.F.L. players are sporting it. Despite this, there are serious questions about the technology behind it, according to an extensive analysis of government documents, scientific studies, and interviews by scientists who interviewed them regarding research into Q-Collar.

Far from making athletes safer, some experts in brain injuries and neuroscience say, the Q-Collar may embolden them to take risks they otherwise wouldn’t.

“The danger with a device like this is that people will feel more protected and play differently and behave differently,” James Smoliga is a North Carolina professor of physiology who led an academic journal crusade against the device.

25-year old Sowers, the star lacrosse player, seems to have confirmed this concern. “I can go out there and play my game,” He said. “I don’t have to fear the contact.”

Q30 Innovations is the company behind the Q-Collar. Dr. Olan and other experts have also stood by their assertions that this device makes players more secure. Safety protocols and rule modifications can reduce recklessness and make it easier to use.

“We’re not talking about concussions,” Tom Hoey, the company’s chief executive, said in an interview. “We are talking about the repetitive hits,” He said that he added, “the Q-Collar reduces the injury and changes to the brain caused by subconcussive impacts.”

Q30 Innovations, located in Westport (Conn.), had an important victory last year. Q-Collar was approved for sale in the United States as a medical device.

According to the agency, company-funded studies It had been shown to limit brain tissue damage. The International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation granted approval for the Q-Collar to be used in competition in November. Meghan Klingenberg, who plays for the Portland Thorns of the National Women’s Soccer League, wears it. It is worn by football players on more than a dozen colleges, including Auburn and Alabama as well as 12-15 N.F.L. teams. Many high school teams also adopted the collar.

This collar, which is lightweight and cushioned, slips around your lower neck. It’s not tight enough to restrict blood flow, but it doesn’t cause any discomfort.

Drue Tranquill is a Los Angeles Chargers linebacker who started to wear the Q-Collar in this season. A hard hit on a punt play last year landed him in the NF.L.’s concussion observation program.

“I wanted to protect myself,” Tranquill stated this in an interview. The F.D.A. posted a statement in October. An article was posted summary of its decision That was far less measured than that of the February 2021 approval announcement. To document the science of the agency’s approval, the summary included several buyer-beware warnings.

Agency cited uncertainties surrounding the use of the imaging technology in the studies. The studies showed subtle brain changes that could be observed in high-school football players and those who didn’t wear the Q-Collar. These changes were only detectable with high-tech imaging and differ from the changes that occurred in brain tissue for players who wore it.

F.D.A. The F.D.A. however stated that no correlation has been established between brain injuries and changes in the research. “validated.” According to the agency, scientists also found something that they didn’t initially believe they needed, making it more difficult for them to predict the outcome.

“They’re finding stuff, but it feels like noise,” said Matt Tenan, a program director at West Virginia University’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute. He and other skeptics cite inconsistencies in the Q-Collar studies and do not accept the theory at the heart of the device — that compressing the jugular vein in the neck keeps additional blood in the cranium, allowing the blood to function like the white surrounding the yolk of an egg.

Company points out the 18 publications supporting this concept, while acknowledging that more research is needed.

There is potential for a huge profit from Q-Collar’s $30 million investment and the many hours of research done to prove its effectiveness. Also, though, there is the health and safety of millions of athletes — pros and amateurs of all ages — and possibly soldiers who may eventually wear a device that may provide little more than a false sense of security.

Dr. David Smith, an inventor and former practitioner of internal medicine, came up with the idea for the Q-Collar after discovering what he believed was the key to a woodpecker’s brain health — a neck muscle that contracts and traps blood in their brains when they peck, at trees, the ground, the siding on your house.

It was not supported by accepted bird research. The cushioning comes from the unique musculature of beaks, and not jugular compression according to Ornithologists. The brains of dead woodpeckers show signs of brain injury.

Yet, the desire for safety and equipment to prevent brain trauma is strong.

F.D.A. The F.D.A. experts pointed out the urgency of devices “may” Protect your brain from minor impacts during sports, and take the Q-Collar at a low risk.

“The probable benefits outweigh the probable risks,” The agency stated.

The Q-Collar’s high-profile supporters include Dr. Julian Bailes, a NorthShore Medical Group neurosurgeon who was at the forefront of research into brain injuries in sports. Alec Baldwin portrayed Dr. Bailes in the movie “Concussion.”

Dr. Smith began his research by tossing small steel casings that held various amounts of blood from the roof of his office, but the initial small animal studies on jugular vein compression and one large animal study were performed in Dr. Bailes’s lab.

Early on, Dr. Bailes, who is a minority shareholder in Q30 Innovations, intuited that an extra teaspoon of blood in the brain might help keep the body’s most irreplaceable organ more still.

“If the brain doesn’t move, it doesn’t get injured,” Interview with Dr. Bailes

Scientists who are skeptical of Q-Collar’s premise accept it. It’s the research behind the Q-Collar that they question.

Martha Shenton is a professor of psychiatry and radiology at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an expert in the high-tech brain imaging that the Q30 scientists have relied on. She reviewed key findings from the F.D.A. study at The Sunday Review’s request. The F.D.A. cited in its approval of the Q-Collar.

Dr. Shenton was enthusiastic about protecting the brain inside the skull but less so about the results of the study.

“None of it makes sense,” Dr. Shenton stated.

Gregory Myer, director of Emory University’s Sports Performance and Research Center, who has led the Q30-funded human clinical trials, allowed that much research remains to figure out the Q-Collar’s true potential.

“It is not a magic bullet,” Dr. Myer was the principal researcher and also received money from Q30 Innovations as a consultant.

According to Dr. Myer, the evidence suggests that the collar could be part of a safety puzzle which includes rules adjustments.

“It all fits together into making sports safer,” He said.

It could pay off big if Dr. Myer’s right. Hoey, Q30’s chief executive officer, stated that the company anticipates selling $100 million over the next five-years from just 1% of its target market.

High school football, lacrosse and hockey were played by more than 2 million Americans. or Soccer last year. Each of these activities are high-risk for subconcussive brain injury. Millions more people play in college and youth.

It has expended approximately $2.5 million. roughly $550,000 on lobbyists and consultants It will be of assistance to the Department of Defense.

Q30 revealed in October it received $2.8million from the U.S. Army as part of a research contract to examine whether Q-Collar might lower brain injury for soldiers subject to explosive blasts.

Dr. Smith was first introduced to woodpecker anatomy 15 years back. After that, Dr. Smith began to talk about Q-Collar concepts with Dr. Joseph Fisher. Fisher is a University of Toronto physiologist who is an expert on brain blood flow.

They spent three years together building computer models, and then studying the effects of compression on rodents and pigs. Eventually, Dr. Bailes was convinced that the Q-Collar would be an important breakthrough. In 2012, Dr. Bailes contacted Hoey. Q30 Innovations made a novel, flavorful mouth guard. However, Dr. Bailes convinced them to invest in the Q-Collar.

“From the very beginning we decided the data had to drive the safety,” Hoey spoke. “We reached out to the best thought leaders in North America.”

Performance Sports Group (the company behind many well-known sports goods brands like Easton and Bauer in baseball and softball) licensed Q-Collar to be used in sport for $7M in 2015. It Q30 Innovations also received $1 million. It put on a presentation in Midtown Manhattan for potential investors, trotting out the hockey legend Mark Messier to attest to the Q-Collar’s potential. It filed for bankruptcy a year later.

Q30 Innovations gained full control over the device in 2018. The Q-Collar was not able to prevent concussions, scientists knew. Luke Kuechly, a Carolina Panthers player, had suffered at least one concussion from the Q-Collar while sporting it. Dr. Myer stated that the company had to come up with an objective measurement showing the device can reduce the chance of brain damage.

Dr. Myer began studying the brains of 284 football players from high schools across seven leagues in 2018.

To count hits and impact, the players used accelerometers in their helmets. The scans combined to create a composite image of each team showed that certain impact levels caused microscopic brain changes in some players, while others experienced significant changes in the brains of those wearing the collars.

Experts in high-tech imaging known as D.T.I. cautioned that you shouldn’t draw too many conclusions from these results.

Derek Jones, a professor at Cardiff University’s Brain Research Imaging Centre, in Wales, described D.T.I. Technology “very sensitive but not very specific.” It produces data which is not easy to comprehend, even in those complex areas of the brain that have produced most important results from the Q-Collar research.

Dr. Shenton, the Harvard specialist, questioned the Q30 scientists’ interpretation of the data from their studies. Dr. Shenton, a Harvard specialist, stated that the reported data is in contradiction to the predictions of a brain scientist and has a limited range of severity.

“They say, ‘We get a change and it doesn’t matter the direction,’” Dr. Shenton stated. “It’s so not what you would expect.”

Tom Talavage from the University of Cincinnati’s biomedical engineering department was the brain imaging specialist for this study. He said that brain tissue damage from subconcussive impacts like the ones experienced by contact athletes can be different from other types of brain injury. However, he acknowledged that it can be difficult to interpret data from such a complex part of the brain.

Dr. Myer, the primary investigator on the studies, acknowledged researchers can’t yet draw any concrete conclusions.

“Hard to explain exactly what the results mean but certainly a target for future research,” He wrote it in an email.

Fisher was the co-inventor. He said that the absence of slam dunk proof allowed critics to. “moan and groan,” As he said, “No one in my family rides a bicycle.” or Skis can be worn without a collar “Let’s say it does nothing, then you lose nothing,” He said.