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!