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This woodpecker-inspired collar is trying to make contact sports safer for your brain

Bauer has released something fascinating.

Hockey equipment company Bauer unveiled a new product Wednesday which could have an impact on the future safety of contact sports. The “NeuroShield” collar looks simple enough, but Bauer says that years or study went into its invention and it was inspired by woodpeckers.

The collar isn’t designed to be a replacement for safety equipment on the market, but rather a way to augment it. Pressure placed on the neck by the collar restricts the backflow of blood from the brain — causing it to become slightly enlarged. This very small change in brain size means there’s less free room for the brain to move inside the skull, resulting in less damage from hits, where traditionally the brain would slosh around inside the skull.

Their studies show that this did have a major impact over the course of time when it came to micro brain injuries, which otherwise would have been unpreventable.

This is a very specific product designed to prevent microscopic injuries, and thus far it’s unclear whether the NeuroShield will have any effect in preventing concussions caused by head trauma — but it is a step forward for safety.

The Globe and Mail spoke to the doctors behind the device.

Dr. Julian Bailes, head of neurosurgery at the NorthShore University Health System in Chicago, told a Toronto news conference Wednesday the human brain is tethered but floating in about seven millimetres of cerebral spinal fluid. That allows it to move inside the skull when the head is joltedby actions such as football tackles or hockey checks.

"It moves inside the skull, it tears fibres, it results in severe forms of diffuse axonal injury, it causes contusions or bleeding in the brain or causes the lethal subdural hematoma from tearing of veins," he explained.

Time will tell whether the collars will have a major impact or become as ubiquitous as helmets in sports, but this could be a product to watch.