Woodpeckers do get concussed, and what this means for the Q-Collar and brain injury prevention
The Q-Collar is a device that is promoted to prevent concussion and "protect the brain during repetitive head impacts", and has been spotted around the necks of athletes in a number of sports, ranging from cricket to football. But do these claims and promises stand up to scientific scrutiny? Is there a sound biological rationale for the claims? Should parents, athletes and coaches explore and use devices such as this to prevent brain injury?
In this episode, Ross explores the answers to the above questions with Prof James Smoliga, professor of Public health and community medicine at Tufts University. Prof Smoliga puts an intense and in-depth scientific microscope on the claims, and concludes that there is no quality evidence in support of concussion and brain health claims, and that the foundational premise on which the product rests is flawed. We also learn that woodpeckers DO show signs of brain injury, that studies linking altitude to protection against concussion are grossly exaggerated and misinterpreted, and, humorously, that NFL teams with animal mascots are less likely to see concussion that teams without animal mascots.
- Dr James Smoliga's university profile page
- The science and research page of the Q-Collar website, describing many of the studies James talks about in the podcast
- James' paper on the mechanisms used by woodpeckers to (partly) protect their brains from injury
- Study showing signs of brain injury in woodpeckers, despite the above mentioned adaptations
- The original study showing a purported protective effect of "altitude" (above 600ft!) on concussion
- The rebuttal letter from James' colleague that absolutely eviscerates the above mentioned altitude study
- James' meta-analysis that looks at over 5 million data points to show that altitude does not have a protective effect against concussion
- The paper discussed on the pod that uses the DTI method to show brain changes with and without the Q-Collar
- The 2021 study that failed to find a reduction in concussion incidence with the Q-Collar
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