Treatment Option: PolarCap & Ice Head Wraps
Clinically proven PolarCap from PolarCool and the Poor Man's PolarCap?
Good news—the Swedes have invented a device clinically proven to help concussed athletes in the immediate aftermath of a concussion and in the exercise tolerance rehabilitation phase.
The company is called PolarCool and the device is called the PolarCap.
It isn’t just a cap. There’s a sizeable freestanding unit that sits in a locker room or emergency room. That unit contains the cooling agent (non-toxic), which is pumped into and out of the cap to cool the brain.
Importantly, the cap isn’t just cooling the brain through the skull, it also cools the vasculature that carries blood into the brain. Note how it wraps around the front of the neck.
The results look very promising, especially in reducing the likelihood that the athlete will have a prolonged recovery. Many hockey clubs in Europe are apparently using it already.
As encouraging as this is, where does this leave the average person today?
As is often the case with new technology for post-concussion care, there is no consumer-grade version of this thing yet—but if I look at the mechanism of action, it seems possible that I could do a poor man’s version of this for myself if I ever sustained a blow to the head in the future.
I’ve mentioned before that my wife suffers from migraine headaches. In that community, a common treatment is an ice head wrap. We already have one.
What that ice head wrap doesn’t do is cool any part of the neck, and thus the blood entering the brain. So if I were to use her ice head wrap, I would add maybe some gel blue ice packs to the same areas of my neck that the PolarCap covers.
If one performs a quick search on Google or Amazon, one will see a plethora of these ice head wraps. I can’t speak to the quality of any, but the point is, such things are cheap and easy to find in abundance, and I’m sure some of them are quality products.
In a pinch (perhaps if I were travelling), I suppose I could also do a Wim Hof-style ice bath, where the neck does get cooled, and the head is briefly cooled as well. If I had just taken a blow to the head, I would probably have someone supervise my ice bath.
The PolarCap treatment lasts between 45 and 60 minutes. Here’s a video demo.
PolarCap® System is a clinically proven technology for treating concussions and sub-concussions with a controlled cooling down treatment of the increased brain temperature, with our patented HeadCap.
Clinical studies with PolarCap® System have shown that treated players have an almost 80% reduction in the risk of long-term absence (3 weeks or more), a statisticially significant effect.
I realise there’s likely no way that a migraine ice head wrap, blue ice packs, or an ice bath would give you the same kind of controlled efficacy that this PolarCap achieves with its carefully calibrated inflow and outflow.
That said, if I had just suffered a blow to the head, and I (like 99.9% of the population) had no access to a PolarCap, then I would opt for a poor man’s version. Especially since I already have said version in my freezer. And now that PolarCool has clinically proven the efficacy of this approach, I would definitely reach for it.
One thing I am now curious about is whether adding neck cooling to our existing ice head wrap would help my wife recover more quickly from migraines.
Brainwave is an informational resource for people whose symptoms haven’t resolved after a concussion or mTBI. I aim to present this information in a clear and concise way, spelling out what’s backed by science and what remains unknown. Nothing here is meant as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. I am not a physician or a healthcare practitioner of any kind; I’ve had a lot of sports-related concussions and had to learn this stuff the hard way. If you found this information helpful or know someone who might benefit from it, please share and subscribe to Brainwave.