TORONTO -- Sports equipment maker Bauer has unveiled a collar-like device it says can protect against microscopic brain damage in athletes playing contact sports like hockey, soccer and football.

Researchers who developed the NeuroShield say it's not known yet whether the product can also prevent concussions in players who suffer head trauma.

The NeuroShield collar is worn around the neck and applies a slight pressure that increases blood volume in the veins around the brain, helping to reduce movement of the brain inside the skull. Damage occurs when the brain sloshes around inside the skull due to a blow to the head.

Sports medicine researcher Greg Myer of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital says the small increase in blood pressure helps prevent damage to the brain's microstructure, which includes delicate nerve fibres.

Studies have shown that school-aged athletes who wore the NeuroShield during their playing season had no significant structural brain changes compared to players who did not don the collar.

Former NHL player Mark Messier, a Bauer spokesman, says he hopes the device will allow kids to remain engaged in sports and keep athletes of all ages and abilities safe from accumulated injuries to the brain.