�Zeke Faux and

Bloomberg Businessweek (North America) - - Technology -

the­ory in 2009, af­ter watch­ing him tes­tify be­fore Congress about head in­juries in the NFL. The team doc­tor for the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers from 1988 to 1998, Bailes was among those who raised the alarm about chronic trau­matic en­cephalopa­thy, a brain dis­ease that wreaks havoc on the lives of for­mer play­ers. The two men met and de­cided to run some tests on an­i­mals. “We went to Michaels arts & crafts and made a col­lar that would fit a rat,” Bailes re­calls.

A stan­dard test in brain dam­age re­search in­volves drop­ping brass weights on the heads of anes­thetized rats, then in­spect­ing their brains for tear­ing in the con­nec­tions be­tween nerve cells. Bailes told Smith that pre­vi­ous ex­per­i­ments found noth­ing re­duced the dam­age in ro­dents’ brains by even 1 per­cent. “No mat­ter what we put be­tween that ball that comes out of the sky and that rat’s skull—we’ve put rub­ber, we’ve put steel, Kevlar—noth­ing changes,” says Smith, quot­ing Bailes.

Sub­se­quent tests showed that rats with the jugu­lar-con­strict­ing bands had 80 per­cent less dam­age than those with­out. Three years ago, Smith and Bailes en­listed Dr. Gre­gory Myer at the Hu­man Per­for­mance Lab­o­ra­tory at Cincin­nati Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal to test the de­vice on hu­mans. He re­cruited about 60 high school foot­ball play­ers, gave half of them col­lars, and mea­sured changes in their brains over the course of a sea­son. The re­sults will be de­tailed in a pa­per that Myer plans to sub­mit for pub­li­ca­tion early next year.

Chris Nowin­ski, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Con­cus­sion Legacy Foun­da­tion, says, “It will also be ex­tremely hard to prove this de­vice works, as there will be a mas­sive placebo ef­fect.” Says the for­mer pro wrestler: “Im­pres­sion­able high school ath­letes, when given this col­lar and told it pre­vents con­cus­sions, will re­port fewer con­cus­sions.”

Myer’s pre­lim­i­nary data were ap­par­ently strong enough to in­ter­est Per­for­mance Sports Group, which has com­mit­ted $7 mil­lion. CEO Davis is so con­fi­dent of the band’s ef­fec­tive­ness that he’s hav­ing his son wear it dur­ing hockey games. Ira Boud­way

③ The added blood leaves less space for the brain to move dur­ing a col­li­sion, re­duc­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of a con­cus­sion.

It sounds un­com­fort­able, but Bailes com­pares it to wear­ing a tie. The col­lar mim­ics the ef­fect of the wood­pecker’s tongue, which is sup­ported by bones that wrap around its jugu­lar. This pro­tects the bird’s brain as it

ham­mers a tree. The bot­tom line A de­vice worn on the neck may help pre­vent con­cus­sions by re­duc­ing the jig­gle room be­tween the cra­nium and the brain.

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