Whenever we hear the clashing of two heads, that “clud” and “thunk” sound, we as humans (and animals) elicit a visceral reflex. Unconsciously, a visceral feeling instantly occurs in our stomach, and then our minds follow immediately with thoughts of “ouch, that had to of hurt” and “I hope that person is ok.” Our reflexes and mind are amazing things.
With the recent admission from the NFL that concussions do in fact cause CTE, measures to decrease concussions are becoming evermore important. Obviously, we are not going to stop sports anytime soon, and that is certainly not a solution. Awareness, education, and devices are ways to mitigate damage caused from head trauma. The latest device to come to market is not a helmet or shoulder pads, but new collar that is worn around the neck. The collar is said to reduce the brain’s movement inside of the skull after a collision or impact. Perhaps, not an elegant term, this technology has been dubbed, “slosh technology.”
The collar is worn around the neck and its job is to constrict the internal jugular veins. Yes, you read that correct. A collar to be worn around the neck during play or activity in order to decrease the slosh in our brains upon impact. The rationale for the device is quite simple. It is a simple neck collar that compresses the internal jugular veins. How could something constricting the neck actually decrease the severity of a head impact? The first clue comes from the fact that an increase in carbon dioxide levels in the brain increases brain blood flow. It is true that anytime blood flow in the veins are constricted, the level of carbon dioxide the brain is exposed to increases. The potent vasodilator effect of CO2 is demonstrated by the finding that in humans a 5% CO2 inhalation causes an increase in cerebral blood flow by 50% and a 7% CO2 inhalation causes a 100% increase in cerebral blood flow. This is where the idea that compressing the jugular veins could increase the carbon dioxide level and achieve the same effect. And the increase blood flow to the brain affects how the brain exists in the skull. So in effect, the neck collar compressing the internal jugular veins increases the cerebral blood volume.
You have to think about how the brain rattles inside of the skull during a collision. The brain, blood, and cerebrospinal fluid never completely fill the skull. Thus, anytime the head or body takes an impact, there is a “rattle effect” that occurs upon impact. This “rattle effect” is what occurs when the brain makes contact with the walls of the cranium and tears the neural tissue and shearing of neurons.
Preliminary animal studies have shown a reduction of neuronal cell injury between 36 to 65%. For such a simple device, this is a huge deal. And recent studies have shown that it decreases ocular (eye) injuries as well, double bonus. Human studies are underway at the University of Cincinnati.
Neck collars such as these may take some getting used to for those who don’t like things around their necks. We have been getting used to wearing things around our necks with the development of neck braces. New preventative devices like these are going to be important for the safety of our children playing sports, athletes and soldiers alike. This is also the first technology that will be FDA approved for the prevention of brain injuries. Hard to say what this all actually means, but it is a measuring stick in any case. If this device actually prevents head injuries, it has the potential to be a game changer.