Dr. Joseph Fisher, a University of Toronto anesthesiologist and senior scientist, believes this to be the key to reducing brain injuries.
The researchers - who include University of Toronto anesthesiologist Dr. Joseph Fisher - say a collar no tighter than a set of headphones worn around the neck during games would create a sort of "airbag" in the skull to save the brain from concussions.
"That's a pretty 'wow' avenue of approach," says Fisher
, also a senior scientist in human physiology at the Toronto General Research Institute
"All of a sudden now we've gone from bigger helmets and things like that to something that . . . would be a simple, inexpensive, universally applied little device."
says sports injury experts seeking to end the concussion plague have been largely wasting their time working on helmets, which do little to abate the key cause of those head injuries.
While a helmet may protect the skull from being cracked on impact, it does little to stop the brain from moving about in the liquid cerebral fluids and blood that bathe it.
It's this sloshing movement that is responsible for much of the brain damage that constitutes concussions, Fisher
"With the brain sloshing around the skull, it's absorbing all sorts of the concussive energies," he
"And this absorption of energy causes disruption of all the neurons and the connections and so on."
By constricting the neck just a little, however, the "internal" jugular veins that drain blood from the skull are narrowed just enough to top up the brain bathing fluids and prevent the delicate organ from moving.
To explain, Fisher
says to picture a clear plastic bottle containing water and an object suspended in the fluid.
If the bottle is not quite full, the suspended object will move around chaotically if the container is dropped to the ground.
If the bottle is topped up with water, however, the suspended object remains still upon impact.
The neck pressures required to keep the skull similarly full of movement retarding blood don't need to be any greater than those experienced by a person wearing a tight collar shirt.
The device itself would be remarkably simple to build and market, Fisher
"It's actually so easy it's beyond belief," he
Indeed, it could be constructed by fitting the neck guards already worn by many hockey players with a couple of strategically placed cotton balls that would compress the relevant jugulars.
"And you're done, that's it.
This isn't like a million dollar project, it's something that will cost you ten bucks if it works," Fisher
himself wears a set of headphones - bent to compress his
internal jugulars - around his
neck while biking to and from work each day.
Humans and other mammals have two sets of jugular veins running down the neck.
The "external" jugulars run along the side, just under the skin and bulge when a person is angry or agitated.
The "internal" ones run below the top layer of neck muscles closer to the trachea and drain the blood from the brain and skull.
To show the protective effects of slight internal jugular constriction, Fisher
colleagues looked at mice, some of which were fitted with collars while others were left collar-free.
They then subjected the rodents to slight head traumas while anesthetized.
Later autopsies showed significant damage to the collar-free cohort, he
The collar wearing rats, however, bore none of the markers that indicate concussions had occurred.
"We've shown proof of principle in animals that we can prevent traumatic brain injuries with a simple (method)," says Fisher
says that like any new medical theory, the idea still needs further scientific validation.
says, there is no downside to wearing a collar and that several Division 1 NCAA football teams have already expressed an interest in their use.
Dr. Joseph Fisher, a University of Toronto anesthesiologist and senior scientist, believes...