There are thousands of ways both team and individual sports are good, nay, excellent for children, and hundreds of thousands of articles telling us why. If you have kids involved in sports, like I do, chances are you’re already sold on that part. Another thing we probably have in common is our worry and concern about keeping kids safe while they participate. A championship trophy or team-building spirit skills don’t mean anything if play isn’t as safe as it can be and traumatic brain injuries wind up happening a result of the action.
But a lot of sports – especially the sports and activities kids love – have concussion and brain injury risks. Soccer, hockey, football, lacrosse… these are some of the sports kids love the most, including my own children. But every crash and bang they experience has me rigid in my seat, and cries of “watch your head!” are not at all uncommon from parents on the sidelines, especially as the kids get older and play becomes more competitive. I don’t want to stem that friendly competitive spirit, because it’s so important to their development as team players, and some kids positively live for field or pitch time. I could easily write another 5000+ words about how play and sport is crucial for so many kids and their physical and emotional development.
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) is foremost on minds of parents and coaches all over Canada, and for good reason. Today we have the technology and knowledge to truly, deeply understand the complexities of the human brain and how it can be affected – short and long-term – by TBIs. Many will experience a concussion in their lifetime, and the risk and frequency increases with several risk factors, including sport and play in activities that present the possibility of head injury. Not one of them would wish it on anyone.
We’re lucky to be living in a time where growing technologies can help parents and kids mitigate this risk. I recently heard about an innovative device that’s now available in Canada called the Q-Collar.This lightweight collar does not interfere with play, and allows athletes the same full range of vision and tactical experience they’d otherwise have. It fits snugly and comfortably around the neck and is used in conjunction with other safety equipment to help protect the brain in situations on fields and pitches when a sports-related impact is a risk factor. In fact, you may have seen the device already, or even wondered aloud what it was when you saw someone wearing it; there are professional athletes taking advantage of this new technology right now, including Winnipeg Blue Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill.
Of the device, Bighill says, “I believe that our sport will always benefit from innovation, particularly when it comes to brain injuries. Considering my helmet is designed to mainly protect my skull, I was immediately drawn to the Q-Collar as a new way to help protect my brain.” He adds, “After reviewing the research and science behind it and experiencing first-hand how it feels to play while wearing it, I’m convinced the Q-Collar can be a game-changer for athletes at all levels.”
Brains are Super Important! Let’s Protect Them!
Brains are the control and command centre of the human body and they are worth protecting at all costs. Kids need to play and they deserve the healthiest, safest ways to do that while still taking part in all the amazing physical activities Canada has to offer. It’s pretty fascinating to hear about the science and innovation behind the Q-Collar. Put simply, a helmet is IMPORTANT and should ALWAYS BE WORN for sports and activities that dictate its use. (I don’t say this lightly; its spoken as the mother of an avid dirt-bike rider and racer. No helmet? NO RIDE.) A helmet protects the skull. The QCollar was devised and created by a team of doctors, who understand that the movement of the brain INSIDE the skull in an impact is “slosh,” something that is exactly what it sounds like.
This slosh is a key cause of structural changes to the brain in impact. A coinventor of the technology, Dr. Joseph Fisher, anesthesiologist and neuroscientist at the University of Toronto and team member behind the collar says,“Recognizing the limits of external protective equipment, such as helmets, in preventing movement-related damage to the brain, we looked for a way to reduce brain movement from the inside. Building on the key concept for why brain injury takes place, we reasoned that with a slight increase of blood volume caused by gentle compression of the neck veins, we could help reduce the brain’s movement, thereby protecting it from being stretched and jostled inside the skull.” The Q-Collar is worn in tandem with other protective gear, as an “added layer” of protection.
I’d encourage you to read more about the Q-Collar, it’s development, and suitability for your own situation. It’s quite interesting and moreover, important. Like any sport, one does not necessarily fit all, and finding out if the Q-Collar is suitable for your needs is something you’ll need to research, but so much great, medically-backed science and – this is key – independent research can be found here.