From the sports medicine team at Virginia Tech-Wake Forest.
Rowson S, McNeely DE, Brolinson PG, Duma, SF. Biomechanical analysis of football neck collars. Clin J Sport Med 2008; 18: 316-321.
Three different neck collars are available to protect players from sustaining a "stinger". Technically a stinger occurs when the brachial plexus is stretched, pinched, or otherwise pissed off.
Interesting that the neck collars worn by football players had not been tested (from a biomechanical standpoint) before being introduced to the game. So, the research team said, HEY! Let's get a crash-test dummy, dress him up like a Hokie and pound his head to see which collar works best in minimizing the forces generated to the head and neck after getting plugged.
There are 3 different types of neck collars. Ya got yer COWBOY COLLAR that gets laced into the shoulder pads and is meant to prevent extension of the neck more than lateral flexion. Think Brian Urlacher. The BULLOCK COLLAR is simply strapped to the shoulder pads and is meant to prevent hyperextension with some restriction to lateral flexion. The KERR COLLAR rests on the shoulders and is also laced into the pads. The base of the helmet touches the collar thereby restricting movement (in theory) in a variety of directions.
Methods: From a real-world application standpoint I have a bit of an issue with their method since they used an instrumented 50th%ile male dummy ie, yer standard issue crash test dummy dude, suited him up with a set of Douglas CP25 shoulder pads and a medium Riddell VSR4 helmet. Now I'm sure that we can ALLLLL agree that no member of any collegiate football team these days is in the 50th percentile for height and weight. Cripes, not even the kickers fit that criteria as I'll bet those pipsqueeks are in the 30th percentile for sure! Unless you measure girth of course....
Anyway, they took this Joe Average Jock Dummy and hit him in the head after varying the neck collar, impact velocity, impact location, and shoulder pad positions 48 different times. No one has done any studies to figure out just how hard you have to hit someone to give them a stinger, so they settled on 5 m/s and 7 m/s. I'm thinking that this hit (extra points for anyone who can ID the hitter and the hitee) was a hell of a lot more than that...but never mind.
Overall the KERR COLLAR is the winner as it was best in a top impact as well as a front impact because it nicely reduced head acceleration and force transmission. Because it contacts the base of the helmet, the forces get distributed more evenly with some of the load being shifted off to the shoulders. None of the three were very helpful in decreasing forces from a side impact.....
no surprise there.
The COWBOY and BULLOCK COLLARS are really only useful in front impacts, and the COWBOY was useless for top impacts.
So, given the data, if my kid were playing, I'd say wear the Kerr, make sure your helmet touches and for godsakes keep your eyes to the sky when you hit the guy and keep your legs moving to drive thru!!!!!