CINCINNATI — Hard hits on the gridiron — and subsequent concussions — are prompting a first-of-its-kind study in Cincinnati.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center teamed up with St. Xavier High School’s hockey and football teams, with the hopes of developing a device that will make contact sports safer for players.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, concussions among young athletes have doubled over the last decade.
More than half of those occur on the football field.
“We originally were trying to figure out how can we prevent these types of concussions, not necessarily from a helmet standpoint but an internal standpoint,” said Michael Gordon, St. X’s head athletic trainer. “This is the first device that’s been used that could do that.”
The collar-like device is fitted around a player’s neck. Doctors came up with the idea, in part by looking at the way a woodpecker’s brain protects itself from repeated blows: a muscle wraps around the brain, protecting it from movement.
This new device does something similar.
"The collar puts pressure on the jugular vein, which increases intracranial blood volume, thus keeping the brain from sloshing around inside the skull," Gordon said.
Thirty-two players on St. X’s team wore the devices this season. They also wore a device on their helmets tracking each player’s hits.
Meanwhile, students at Moeller High School acted as the control group, tracking hits but not wearing the device.
“They wanted to see, would this affect any brain changes throughout a season in guys that were wearing it and guys who weren't wearing it?” Gordon said. “We did see some significant findings.”
The findings were so significant that the company behind the device — Performance Sports Group — already has plans to roll them out across the country in the next year or so.
“This could be a potential game-changer for a lot of parents,” Gordon said.
The team’s research is still ongoing.