Category Archives: Safety and Regulation

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Q-Collar Shown to Reduce Brain Changes in Non-Helmeted Female Athletes

A device inspired by woodpeckers and bighorn sheep has shown to help protect non-helmeted female athletes from traumatic brain injuries sustained over the course of a soccer season.
The Q-Collar is a device worn around the neck that presses lightly against the jugular vein, slowing blood outflow from the skull. That increased blood volume serves to stop the brain from sloshing during an impact. While the device’s effect has been studied before, particularly among helmeted sports such as men’s ice hockey and football, a newly-released study is the first to look at girls in non-helmeted sports. (Female athletes are, in general, more susceptible to brain injury.)
The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Q30 Innovations, the company behind the Q-Collar, studied its effects on a team of female high school soccer players during a competitive season. The results of the study, which have been published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, revealed “no significant changes” in the brain’s white-matter from pre- to post-season of those athletes wearing the device, while those on the team who didn’t wear the collar displayed “significant white-matter changes” despite a similar number of head impacts.  
“We were looking at female athletes because that is certainly an underserved population in terms of receiving research,” said Dr. Greg Myer, director of sports medicine research at Cincinnati Children’s and lead author of the study. “Female athletes tend to be more susceptible to a head impact. Our football studies showed that male athletes can have an average of 800 head impacts over 20G, while girls are closer to 150 impacts over 20G. It’s a substantial difference.”

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Over a six-month period, the researchers studied every head impact sustained during practice and games to get an understanding of how repetitive sub-concussive hits can change the white matter structure of the brain over the course of a season. The hits, which were tracked using accelerometers placed behind the left ear during practice and games, ranged from heading a ball to colliding with another player, or a hard fall. The study looked at 46 female high school players, 24 of who wore the Q-Collar. All the athletes underwent neuroimaging up to three times over the study, which spanned the course of a competitive season and a three-month wind-down period where they were at reduced risk of head impact.
The researcher’s overall conclusion matched that from Q30’s previous studies: Helmets alone aren’t the solution.
“In sports, there’s a heavy focus on single big blows to the head that might lead to what is subjectively described as a concussion,” said Myer. “What we really wanted to look at now is the cumulative effect of head impact exposure over an entire season. Evidence indicates that cumulative load of head impacts is potentially more concerning than that one single blow.”
The imaging conducted during the three-month postseason showed that white matter changes in the non-collar group either partially resolved or fully returned to normal. But the concern is that sustaining injuries such as these over time could weaken the brain and lead to more serious consequences.
A high school soccer player wears the Q-Collar and an accelerometer sensor. (Courtesy of Q30)
Myer views the study as sparking a “paradigm shift” in how people look at concussion prevention.
“Long-term blows are just as important as creating the perfect helmet,” he said. “To us, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to just look at concussions because that’s one hit of the 200 to 500 you could take during a season. We focused our studies on the cumulative load that the brain is exposed to. We want to reduce the burden of the brain in a sport where you could have head impacts.”
Q30 is working with the FDA to get the collar approved as a medical device and is using its nearly three-dozen medical studies conducted over the past six years as evidence to support its case. Last year, Q-Collar was approved as a medical device for commercial sale in Canada.
Tom Hoey, co-CEO of Q30, said the hope is that the Q-Collar sets a precedent for innovations claiming to protect the brain from concussions.
“Working with the FDA is absolutely critical, and we’re happy to be working with them,” said Hoey. “As a medical device, our marketing claims will have to be approved by the FDA before we can market the Q-Collar in the U.S. We believe that it would be a good thing if other products that claim to reduce traumatic brain injury had to go through the same rigor of the FDA process.”
Dr. David Smith, a co-author of the recent study, came up with the idea for the Q-Collar after researching head-ramming bighorn sheep and woodpeckers and analyzing how both animals routinely tolerate high-speed cranium collisions with no adverse impact.


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VICIS Brings Youth Football Helmet to Market After Series B Investment From Aaron Rodgers

Football helmet technology company VICIS has completed its $28.5M Series B round of funding, which includes investment from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The company also announced the commercial availability of Zero1 Youth, its first helmet designed for youth football players.
The youth helmet maintains the same soft outer shell and protective layers engineered for VICIS’ adult helmet model, but the youth model is lighter and more compact to further protect youth football players from sustaining concussions through impact. Rodgers joins fellow NFL QBs Alex Smith and Russell Wilson as investors in VICIS. Both Smith and Wilson wear the Vicis helmet on the field. Rodgers’ investment comes via venture capital firm Rx3 Ventures.  
“We invested in VICIS because its commitment to player safety – specifically at the youth level – is one we wanted to support,” said Rodgers in a press release. “We look forward to working with VICIS as they continue to develop outstanding technologies for players at all levels.”

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While VICIS retails its Zero1 adult helmet for $950, the youth helmet will cost $495, according to TechCrunch. The helmet weighs just less than four pounds and offers the widest field of view of any kids’ helmet currently available. VICIS has now received $84 million in total investments since the Seattle-based company was founded in 2013.
SportTechie Takeaway
Separate studies conducted by the NFL/NFLPA and Virginia Tech Helmet Lab both named VICIS Zero1 as the safest football helmet available.  VICIS’ new helmet may be just as effective when worn by youth football players. But the helmet’s lofty $495 price tag may make the purchasing decision more difficult for the average American family or youth-level team. 


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New Collapsible Bike Helmet Shatters Fundraising Goal

Three years ago, Rachel Hall was hit by a car as she was riding through the Park and Diamond intersection near Temple University in Philadelphia. The driver didn’t stop. She wasn’t wearing a helmet. She ended up in a coma for four months.
Her brother David and his friend Jordan Klein, then both engineering undergraduates at Virginia Tech, reacted to Rachel’s accident by setting out to figure out why people don’t always wear helmets, and trying to solve that problem. Now they are shattering fundraising targets on Indiegogo as they accept pre-orders for a collapsible helmet that looks something like a baseball cap.
As of Thursday morning, their company, Park & Diamond, had raised more than $530,000, easily meeting its $50,000 fixed goal just a week into the month-long campaign. Pre-orders are expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2019. (Rachel is a long way along in her recovery, and now jokes that she should get a cut of the success.)
“She wasn’t wearing a helmet, and the question was why wasn’t she wearing a helmet?” Hall said. “We asked that question when she was in the intensive care unit, and after.”
Hall and Klein are driven by this statistic: 97 percent of cyclists who died in accidents in New York City in 2005 weren’t wearing helmets. While Rachel survived, they realized how fatal the decision not to wear a helmet could be. They sat down one day and thought “We have to do something about this.”
Hall and Klein won a series of startup competitions while at Virginia Tech, and then received a seed funding round that allowed them to hire their first employees: a former SpaceX engineer and a CBS employee who could lead marketing.

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They have conducted thousands of rider interviews so far. The reasons for why people opted not to wear helmets quickly surfaced. Notably, the people they talked to didn’t feel existing bike helmets were comfortable, aesthetically pleasing, or portable.
Hall and Klein figured they could address the aesthetic problem by outfitting helmets with removable covers that made them appear more like baseball caps. But addressing the portability issue meant figuring out a way to collapse the helmet itself.
Most bike helmets today used a foamed polymer liner, typically a denser version of the expanded polystyrene used in foam cups and coolers. EPS is bulky and hard, incapable of being rolled up or folded. A collapsible helmet couldn’t be built from EPS, so Hall and Klein developed their own proprietary composite material that they say also works as well or better in terms of protection than existing helmets on the market today.
“It’s our secret sauce that allows the whole helmet to work,” Hall said. “Our focus was how do we make a material with less volume that could take as much or more energy. Our helmet uses something completely different. The material is rigid, so at end of day what’s standing between you and what you’re about to impact is rigid and can absorb the energy.”
Unlike traditional foam helmets that might bounce and crack on impact, Park & Diamond claims its helmet shell does not bounce because it’s designed to immediately absorb and dissipate energy. At just eight ounces in weight, the helmet is light, portable in that it can collapse to the size of a water bottle, yet still adequately disperses the energy of a blow to the head. The exterior covers are removable and washable, so Park & Diamond is planning to even enable personalization of designs.
The company already has a number of patents and trademarks and is currently working to meet required U.S. and E.U. helmet regulations. While the first iteration will only be available in adult sizes, Park & Diamond has already surpassed all current U.S. CPSC Children’s Product Certificate standards. Further into the future, it plans to expand into other sports, such as skiing and snowboarding.


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Mammut Launches MIPS Climbing Helmet to Protect Against Rotational Impacts

Outdoor equipment maker Mammut has launched a new climbing helmet that incorporates the multi-directional impact protection system, which is designed to reduce rotational forces during impact.
While there are a number of MIPS helmets on the market today, including bike and ski helmets that climbers have adapted to their sport, Swiss-based Mammut said its Wall Rider MIPS is the world’s first MIPS-integrated helmet targeted specifically at climbing.
“As one of the oldest and most respected outdoors brands in the world, Mammut has not forgotten its history as inventor of the climbing rope, revolutionizing the way that outdoors-people perform and achieve goals and successes through the centuries, and today,” the company said in a statement.

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MIPS is a patented technology located inside helmets that is designed to reduce rotational forces caused by certain impacts, in this case such as tumbling rocks or falls. Rotational acceleration has been found to be the predominant injury mechanism in concussion. The MIPS system consists of an internal layer flexibly attached to the external part of the helmet. When the Wall Rider MIPS is subjected to an angled impact, the external part of the helmet can then slide slightly relative to the head. A portion of the rotational forces and energies are therefore redirected and absorbed rather than being transferred to the brain.
Andres Lietha, head of hardware at Mammut Sports, said many of the company’s developers and product managers are climbers and mountain bikers.
“So we started to ask us the obvious question, how can we add the safety MIPS offers to climbers also?” he said in the press release. “We did in-depth research and found data showcasing that a significant part of head injuries in climbing also result from a rotational impact.”
The new Wall Rider, which clocks in at just 225 grams (0.5 pounds), will be available at Backcountry.com and Mammut.com starting on Oct. 4 for $179, followed by a launch at retailers nationwide on Feb. 1.
SportTechie Takeaway
MIPS is making its way through helmets involved in a host of sports and recreational activities (including bicycle helmets and ski helmets) amid the increased attention on traumatic brain injuries caused by inadequate head protection. A number of companies are investing heavily in helmet technology and developing proprietary materials and absorption technologies to try to mitigate the problem. Beyond MIPS, the National Football League has been leading the charge among the professional sports leagues by conducting studies on football-related head trauma and hosting startup challenges to crowdsource solutions. The MIPS tech addresses a specific kind of rotational impact that caters to falls off walls, bikes, or snow equipment.


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