Ice hockey equipment maker Bauer has revealed what is claims is the world’s first athletic product clinically shown to help protect the brain from the inside during sports-related impacts. “The Bauer NeuroShield collar revolutionises head protection with an innovative approach that delivers peer-reviewed scientific benefits,” the company says in a statement.
“Research shows that the brain can undergo changes as a result of sports-related impacts, even in the absence of a clinically-diagnosed concussion,” said Dr Julian Bailes, chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery and co-director of NorthShore University Health System Neurological Institute. “Over time impacts both large and small accumulate and can cause changes to the microstructure of the brain in athletes. NeuroShield is revolutionary because of its ability to provide an athlete with protection which reduces the likelihood that these changes will occur.”
The NeuroShield collar is worn around the neck and applies light pressure that mildly increases blood volume in the venous structures around the brain. This small and safe increase in volume helps reduce brain movement inside the skull, and as a result, key components of its microstructure, such as delicate nerve fibers, are better protected. This small increase in blood volume is similar to what occurs naturally when a person lies down or yawns
The technology behind NeuroShield was discovered by Dr David Smith, who was inspired by the woodpecker’s ability to withstand thousands of high energy impacts daily and fly away unharmed. Woodpeckers have natural adaptations that protect their brains, which led Smith to look more closely at human physiology and head protection. Smith, along with Dr Joseph Fisher and Bailes, performed the initial research looking to identify a product solution using the body’s own physiology to help stabilise the brain.
Bauer has licensed the NeuroShield technology from Q30 Innovations, LLC (Q30), a research and development company that acquired the rights to the underlying technology from Smith and Fisher. Bailes serves as medical advisor and is a shareholder in Q30, which has sponsored studies conducted by researchers affiliated with leading academic and medical institutions, including Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
According to the results of these published, peer-reviewed studies, when a player wears NeuroShield over the course of a season, advanced imaging shows no significant structural change to the brain as compared to those not wearing NeuroShield. The short- and long-term impacts of these structural changes to the brain are not fully understood at this time and continue to be studied. The NeuroShield collar does not prevent concussions.
Athletic performance was also measured to ensure it was not sacrificed as a result of a player wearing NeuroShield. Athletes were subjected to more than 20 different tests including cardiorespiratory capacity, strength, reaction time, memory and other athletic functions. In each test, it was determined that the NeuroShield technology did not negatively impact their performance.
“Since our founding in Kitchener, Ontario, 90 years ago, we have advanced hockey skates, sticks and protection,” said Mary-Kay Messier, VP of marketing, Bauer Hockey. “Our investments into head protection have allowed us to gain a deep understanding of our athletes and the impacts within our game. Launching NeuroShield in Canada is a positive step that reflects both our Canadian heritage and history of innovation.”
The NeuroShield collar is available now in select hockey stores in Canada for a recommended price of C$199. It comes in eight sizes based on neck girth. NeuroShield can be worn in both helmeted and un-helmeted sports, and is designed to complement and be compatible with equipment typically worn during play, including neck guards, shoulder pads and helmets.