What is the anti-concussion Q-Collar worn by players at the Women’s World Cup?


July 22, 2023

The 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand is well and truly underway.

In total, nine cities are playing host to the 32 teams contesting this year’s tournament, including Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland and Wellington.

The United States are aiming for a record third successive world title, while England, Germany, France and Australia are among the other teams considered favourites.

Haiti, Morocco, Panama, Philippines, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Vietnam and Zambia are all making their debut at the tournament.

There are a number of new additions at the 2023 Women’s World Cup, with referees announcing the decision after a VAR review to the whole stadium, and captains wearing one of eight FIFA-sanctioned armbands during the tournament.

Eagle-eyed viewers have also spotted players wearing a device around their neck. Canadian midfielder Quinn wore it during their side’s encounter against Nigeria, while Costa Rica’s Rocky Rodríguez is another player known to don the device.

But what is it? It is a Q-Collar, a horseshoe-shaped piece of silicone which is placed around the neck. GiveMeSport looks into why some players have chosen to wear the device, and whether it is effective.

Why are Women’s World Cup players wearing a Q-Collar?

The Q-Collar is designed to reduce traumatic brain injuries associated with playing sport.

According to Dr. David Smith, who designed the device, the Q-Collar offers “mild compression against the jugular veins, which causes a very small backfilling into the cranial space.”

This build-up of blood acts as a cushion, which prevents the excessive brain movement within the skull that can cause injuries.

The Q-Collar was cleared for sale as a medical device in 2021 by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which found that research studies “indicate protection of the brain associated with device use.”

There has been some debate over the apparatus, however. Some researchers have questioned the methodology in the studies supporting the effectiveness of the Q-Collar.

Others have claimed that the Q-Collar would embolden athletes to take risks that they otherwise wouldn’t.

“The danger with a device like this is that people will feel more protected and play differently and behave differently,” said James Smoliga, a professor of physiology at High Point University in North Carolina, according to the New York Times.

But the FDA found that “no significant adverse events were associated with device use”, and that “the probable benefits outweigh the probable risks”.

So, it’s fair to say that it’s not certain that the Q-Collar can reduce the chance of a traumatic brain injury while playing sport, but there’s likely not much harm in athletes wearing it.

Which other athletes wear a Q-Collar?

The Q-Collar is the most prevalent in the NFL, where the risk of a traumatic brain injury is arguably the highest.

Drue Tranquill, Tony Pollard, Dalton Schultz, Shaq Thompson, Taylor Rapp, Boston Scott and Colby Parkinson are among the NFL players to wear the device.

Lacrosse and basketball players are included on Q-Collar’s list of ambassadors, while Meghan Klingenberg and Taylor Cummings are among the other women’s football stars to compete while wearing the apparatus.

Are female athletes more at risk of traumatic brain injuries?

Studies have shown that athletes competing in contact sports are at higher risk of traumatic brain injuries.

A recent study by The Journal of the American Medical Association found the risk of cognitive impairment increased with the cumulative heading frequency, having assessed more than 450 retired men’s football players in the UK.

In addition, research suggests that female athletes are significantly more likely to experience concussions and other brain injuries than their male counterparts.

According to the BBC, studies have inferred that female athletes are not only more likely to sustain a concussion in any given sport, but they also tend to have more severe symptoms, and take longer to recover.

While men are more likely to suffer from amnesia following a concussion, women are more likely to struggle with prolonged headaches, difficulties with concentration and mental fatigue, and mood swings.

Theories on why women are more at risk of brain injuries include having less muscular necks, anatomical differences within the brain, and varying hormones depending on each stage of the menstrual cycle.

While the research on this issue is still inconclusive, it is still understandable that female athletes want to take precautions against brain injuries and use devices such as the Q-Collar.

Who is Canadian midfielder Quinn?

Quinn, who has been wearing the Q-Collar at the Women’s World Cup, is nearing 100 appearances for Canada.

The 27-year-old is playing at the Women’s World Cup for the second time in their career, having made the squad for the tournament in 2019.

Quinn came out as non-binary and transgender in 2020, and now uses gender-neutral pronouns. They also changed their name by adopting their prior surname as a mononym.

As a result, Quinn is the first-ever openly transgender, non-binary athlete to compete at the Women’s World Cup.

They also became the first transgender, non-binary person to win an Olympic medal, helping Canada to gold at Tokyo 2020.

Canada are in Group B at the 2023 Women’s World Cup, alongside Ireland, Nigeria and co-hosts Australia.

It is Canada’s eighth appearance at the Women’s World Cup, with their best finish coming at the 2003 tournament in the United States. They finished fourth after losing 2-1 to Sweden in the semi-finals.

The country also hosted the Women’s World Cup in 2015, but could only make the quarter-finals despite the home advantage. They exited the tournament following a 2-1 defeat to England.

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