Eagle-eyed viewers might have noticed Canadian international Quinn sporting an interesting piece of gear around their neck in their nation’s Women’s World Cup group stage opener against Nigeria. So too with Costa Rican star Rocky Rodriguez.
The duo are just two of many footballers who have begun to employ the Q-Collar, a horseshoe-shaped piece of silicone tasked with protecting the brain from the inside to combat the prevalence of brain injuries in contact sports.
With an historic prize pool up for grabs at this summer’s showpiece event, the need for protection has arguably never been greater.
In fact, days before the tournament’s opening matches, a new study, published by The Journal of the American Medical Association, found that “the risk of cognitive impairment increased with the cumulative heading frequency” after they evaluated the cognitive impairment of more than 450 retired professional men’s footballers in the UK and the frequency with which they headed the ball during their playing careers.
The findings reinforced those of earlier studies, but past research has also established that female footballers are considerably more likely to experience brain injuries in comparison to their male counterparts. In fact, for every 1,000 hours of playing or practising soccer, there are about 1.5 concussions for women compared with 1.0 for men, according to the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
The reasoning behind females’ higher susceptibility is heavily mooted, though a plethora of theories exist, including differences in neck muscles, metabolisms and hormone cycles hence we see this new technology used in FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Nevertheless, the danger posed to female and male footballers is stark, which is why the Q-collar is fast becoming a part of more footballers’ uniforms.
Dr David Smith, a former internist who invented the device, explained that the device prevents excessive brain movement within the skull, thus mitigating the risk of brain injuries.
Some debate remains over the efficacy of the Q-Collar, though in the USA a number of collegiate and professional athletes have begun to utilise the device with increasing frequency and now in the biggest stage of FIFA Women’s World Cup.
New research has found that female athletes are often disproportionately affected by injury, with the recent epidemic of ACL tears in the upper echelons of women’s football shining a particularly glaring light on the lack of research and resources afforded footballers in the women’s game.
And with so much on the line this summer, more footballers could turn to the new technology as a means of protection.