Technology Preventing Brain Injury Inspired by Woodpeckers

By Brooks Schuelke of Perlmutter & Schuelke, PLLC

It is difficult to imagine that a bird and a football player have much in common, but they do, and the lowly woodpecker just may hold the key to making safer football helmets.

The history of football is rife with attempts to make a better helmet for players to prevent skull fractures. While the technology does exist to prevent or diminish skull fractures, there is little to no protection from brain injuries. This is where the woodpeckers come into play.

Dr. Gregory Myer, is the director of research and the human performance lab at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Sports Medicine division. Myer was contacted by Xennovate Medical’s CEO, David Smith, who was enthused about the possibilities of a possible breakthrough in brain injury care. The idea proposed came about as a result of studying woodpeckers.

Smith explained to Myer that woodpeckers prevent concussions by wrapping their tongues around their jugular veins to increase blood flow to the brain. This keeps the brain from moving about inside the skull while the bird hammers on wood. Myer understood that since the bird could not protect its head from the outside, the adaptation of winding its tongue around its jugular would prevent brain injuries. Mayer began research on the “Q Collar,” also known as the Neuroshield, which is designed to be worn around the neck and increase blood flow to human brains.

The initial prototype Neuroshield performed well in field tests with high school football teams, soccer teams and a SWAT team. The promising results may give the Neuroshield a chance that it could be pressed into service for the U.S. military. Although there is still more research to conduct, if the theory behind preventing brain trauma is correct, the collar may become an integral part of daily life and even be used while riding a bike or motorcycle. It is anticipated that the collar manufacturer, the Performance Sports Group, may put the product on the market by 2018.

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