There’s a section on the Hockey Hall of Fame‘s website dedicated to humour. There you’ll find a story about Gordie Howe, Mr. Hockey himself, being asked by a talk show host in the 1970s why it was that hockey players back then wore cups but rarely wore helmets:

Howe appeared on the Dick Cavett show in the 1970s and Cavett wondered why hockey players always wore a protective cup but rarely a helmet. Howe answered, “You can always get someone to do your thinking for you.”

Times have certainly changed since then, and the reality is that brain injuries are certainly nothing to laugh about. Brain injuries and concussions are now huge concerns to leagues, associations, players, parents and equipment manufacturers across any sport where head contact with another person or object is common. Hockey is one of those sports.


The Q-Collar, developed by Q30 Innovations, seeks to reduce incidents of brain injury caused by a concussive blow to the head of athletes, soldiers and industrial workers. (PRNewsFoto/Q30 Innovations)

US-based Q30 Innovations is on a mission to reduce the incidents of traumatic brain injury on the sports field, battlefield and in the workplace. Last month, it released details on studies made on one of its beta products, the Q-Collar. Like the name suggest, the Q-Collar is worn around the neck, bubble wrapping the jugular vein to increase the blood flow to the brain. And that bubble-wrapping effect seems to be quite effective at reducing injuries.

That idea comes from nature — from woodpeckers and head-ramming sheep in particular. David Smith, PhD, a visiting scientist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and co-inventor of the collar wondered how they are able to do what they do without damaging their brains. For the sheep, the head-ramming they do is done at high altitudes, and those high altitudes are believed to increase the volume of blood present in the skull. As for the woodpeckers, they have an extraordinary tongue, one so long that it wraps itself around the woodpecker’s head, lassoing the jugular vein, creating a bubble-wrap effect similar to the Q-Collar.

This is the first time the Q-Collar was used for a study on humans, which were done on a selection of high school hockey and football players in Cincinnati, Ohio. The lead author of the studies was Gregory D. Myer,  PhD, director of sports medicine research at Cincinnati Children”s Hospital, and the results have been published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine,

“These groundbreaking studies show early evidence Q30’s Q-Collar was effective to significantly reduce injury to the brain resulting from sports-related blows to the head,” said Q30 Innovations Co-Founder Tom Hoey. “These are important findings that warrant continued research of this potential major advance in reducing the occurrence of brain injuries.”

The Q-Collar is not available on the market just yet — it needs FDA approval first. But with such promising results, even if they are preliminary, it should come as no surprised that Performance Sports Group (NYSE: PSG) (TSX: PSG) has signed a licensing deal with Q30 to “commercialize the Q-Collar for use in sports worldwide”. Brands under the PSG umbrella include BAUER, MISSION, MAVERIK, CASCADE, INARIA, COMBAT and EASTON.