When we built the original Kato Collar, we knew it would be a game changer in player safety. Colleges, universities, high schools, and individual players are all preventing head and neck injuries with Kato Collar. We were just getting started.

On Thursday, May 17, we’re launching our crowdfunding campaign to fuel research, development, and delivery of a youth collar. We’re organizing parents and teams who realize there’s a lack of gear that addresses the frequency, severity, and recovery times of head and neck injuries. This fear of injuries is preventing athletes of all ages from the sport they love.

So today, this is a big announcement for us. It’s been a long road but we’ve got no intention of stopping or slowing down.

In high school, college and the NFL, the shoulder pads are streamlined to fit tightly over the shoulders and around the chest. Because it’s a tight-fitting jersey, it’s easy for us to attach our adult Kato Collar to the shoulder pads and prevent movement of the collar. Additionally, there are many fewer variations in shoulder pads and other gear so we can guarantee a comfortable fit for our players.

However, it’s different for our youth and junior high football players. The design for this size of collar presents some interesting challenges:

  • There are infinitely many different sizes of players.
  • There are few choices on sizes of shoulder pads currently available to youth participants. As a result, the jerseys are loose fitting jerseys to accommodate the different sizes of athletes.

We worked with the Iron Range Engineering School in our home state of Minnesota, to have them help us research and prototype options for how we can devise a collar that fits to the player, not the pads. We saw this opportunity as a way to listen to new voices in the football community, to help us think outside the box. As my career has been grounded in college sports, I also found this to be a great opportunity for real-world learning for the students. And Iron Range Engineering is among the top engineering schools in the country, so this was a chance to work with some of the brightest and best young people you could ask for!

As a result, we determined early on that a collar attached to the shoulder pads of junior high and youth players would not be as effective due to a migration of the collar during play. It required additional product design considerations. We had three potential approaches:

  • Sewing the collar into a tight-fitting shirt
  • Utilizing various harness mechanisms to attach our collar to the torso and shoulders
  • Attaching the collar via a protective vest

Essentially the collar itself remains a similar design. Our patent is on the collar, not the flange that attaches it to the equipment or the player. Additionally, this design is the essence of our collar, ensuring a discreet design while offering the airbags to slow down the head after impact.

It’s the flange. We need to have a different way to attach the collar itself to the player.

We’ll get there, for sure. I have never been the kind of person to give up on something just because it’s too hard or seems impossible to accomplish. Yet I know we can’t do it alone. Just like the partnership with the students at the Iron Range School, I am listening to other voices in our football communities to develop this collar, and need help bringing it to market. We’ll get there, yes; yet we have kids playing now that are at too much risk of injury. Our goal is to have it on players for fall ‘18 football season.

Guardian Athletics and the football community are asking for your support to help make a Youth Kato Collar to all youth football participants. Our goal is to have a youth and junior high collar available during fall 2018.  To do this we need your help! Your financial support will be used for research, design, and completion of a product to make the game safer for our youth playing the game they love. Join us in our quest to prevent injuries, make the game safer and LET THEM PLAY!

A bit more about the Iron Range School:

Iron Range Engineering (IRE) has been recognized as one of the top 10 emerging world leaders in engineering education through the recent publication of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology research study.

Iron Range Engineering provides an engineering education to graduates of Minnesota’s community colleges. Using an innovative approach based on the latest research on how people learn, the IRE model guides students to develop the wide variety of technical, professional, and design knowledge and skills that engineers need to succeed in the ever-changing world.

IRE is located on the Mesabi Range College campus in Virginia, Minnesota. The program is supported by the Iron Range Higher Education Committee and the Department of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation, and funded through the Iron Range Higher Education Account. The program is delivered by a university-college partnership between Minnesota State University, Mankato, and Itasca Community College. Please, check out their website and Facebook page for more info!

For more info about our crowdfunding, please click here. Please donate at any amount!

Guardian Athletics Manifesto

Concussion.The big, scary, 10-letter word. The fear of them is getting in the way of the protection of our athletes and the game we love.The game that’s been handed down through generations. The game that entire communities are built around.

But our game has been under attack because of legitimate safety concerns. And it ends now.

If youth participation continues to drop, where will the next generation of great players come from?

The first impact protected by helmets is only a part of the problem. Just as a sound structure is important in a car crash, without multiple airbags the results are catastrophic.

With innovative design and technology, the Kato Collar addresses the real problem, rapid acceleration and deceleration inside the helmet, protecting the brain from that secondary, often times more traumatic blow by 30%.

So let’s protect our players, protect the game and let them play. Safely.

Join us.

Field Tester: Marcus Gooden

Marcus Gooden was a 5th year senior from Illinois who played linebacker and long snapper on punts and extra points for the 2015 Minnesota State Mavericks. He suffered from repeated burner/stingers, averaging 1-2 every game. Unfortunately, Marcus would have to leave for a series of plays to recover every time he sustained the injury in a game.

His Athletic Trainer at Minnesota State Mankato worked to prevent the injury from occurring through treatment, rehabilitation, and protection with other collars yet couldn’t prevent his burner/stinger from recurring. I worked with them to have Marcus wear our third prototype, and here’s what he had to say:

“My junior year I got a pretty bad stinger affecting my left shoulder and arm. Going into my senior year those stingers continued. I had one or two a game. I talked to Jeff, and he suggested I wear the collar. Deep into the season, I took his advice. As I wore the collar, I couldn’t believe it but, the stingers wore off. And I actually didn’t have any moving forward.”

This is why I developed our flagship product: To help players like Marcus stay on the field and to help protect from injuries.

Concussions & CTE: What We Know

Over my 35 years of experience as an athletic trainer, I needed to communicate with athletes, coaches, parents, and physicians in a way that each understood what had occurred. In the most basic of words, a concussion is any blow to the head or the body that causes enough injury to the brain to elicit symptoms such as being dazed, confused, clumsy, lightheadedness, and/or impaired vision.

When it comes down to it, the diagnosis of a concussion is subjective. Currently there are no objective diagnostic tests that can be performed to confirm a concussion or determine severity. Most diagnostic tests are performed to rule out a serious brain injury, that could lead to permanent damage or catastrophic results. These tests are designed to diagnose Traumatic Brain Injury. Signs are different from symptoms. Signs are what can be observed, and symptoms are described by the athlete.

I don’t assume that everyone follows along with the current news about concussions and the information that we are learning about the destructive impact of CTE. These are serious; and most coaches and trainers have taken this very seriously throughout their careers. Yet we need to improve our game: There are safer ways to play while keeping the integrity of the sport alive.

What causes concussions?
A concussion is a serious injury to the brain resulting from the rapid acceleration and deceleration of brain tissue within the skull. Rapid movement causes brain tissue to change shape, which can stretch and damage brain cells. This damage also causes chemical and metabolic changes within the brain cells, making it more difficult for cells to function and communicate. (Source: Concussion Legacy Foundation)

What is CTE?
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease found in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma. The best available evidence tells us that CTE is caused by repetitive hits to the head sustained over a period of years. Most people diagnosed with CTE suffered hundreds or thousands of head impacts over the course of many years playing contact sports or serving in the military. And it’s not just concussions: the best available evidence points towards sub-concussive impacts, or hits to the head that don’t cause full-blown concussions, as the biggest factor. (Source: Concussion Legacy Foundation)

With a drop in youth football participation, few improvements to the gear that protects players on the field, and a lack of innovation, we believe there is ample room for improvement.

One airbag doesn’t save your life in a crash. Just like a helmet alone will save you from a concussion. When you are the field, you build confidence through technique and the right gear. Training, such as Heads Up, educate our players about a safer way to tackle. We realized there is a blank space out there; rapid acceleration and deceleration of the brain within the skull.

As shown above, with state-of-the-art testing done at Chesapeke Labs our collar is able to slow deceleration of the brain by up to 30%. Our objective is athlete safety. We designed Kato Collar to help provide protection against concussions, and decelerating the brain by nearly a third is going to make a positive impact on addressing that. We are committed to athlete safety and will continue to research and innovate ways to do that in football, as well as other high impact sports.

As more comes out in the research, theories are developing about what occurs inside the skull that causes injury to the brain after impact. I believe there is more to uncover with our approach to training, equipment, and how we improve recovery procedures. By first understanding and utilizing a common language, we’ll begin to realize how to approach concussions as they happen.