Professor Alex Collie
4 May 2016

During March I made a whirlwind trip to the northern hemisphere to attend the World Brain Injury Congress and visit the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety. Both of these have significant ties to the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) and represented an opportunity  to  share knowledge and bring home ideas to benefit our partners. The trip reaffirmed the need to collaborate and work together to achieve the best results for the community.

World Congress on Brain Injury

First stop was The Hague in the Netherlands where I attended the Eleventh World Congress on Brain Injury. Transport accidents are the leading cause of brain injury and the TAC provides lifetime care and support for many hundreds of Victorians living with severe brain injury.  So  the congress was an important opportunity to learn more about the latest advances in treatment rehabilitation and long term care for brain injury from around the world, and to bring these insights back to Victoria.

Highlights included:

  • research showing that 'coordinated' pathways of care during rehabilitation and into the community lead to greater functional recovery after severe injury, at lower cost.
  • a session that described four different approaches in Europe to community rehabilitation networks. All had different approaches but were attempting to achieve the same objective of improved integration and function for those injured and their families and carers.
  • a trend away from randomised controlled trials (which have largely failed in seriously brain injured populations) and towards comparative effectiveness research. This is being led by the CENTER-TBI study which is a large multi-national comparative effectiveness study. (If you are wondering what comparative    effectiveness research is, then look no further than our very own ComPARE project)
  • a theme throughout the conference on mild brain injury. This was focussed mainly on sports concussion which is a hot topic in the USA but there was quite a lot of relevance to the Australian context.

There were a lot of Australians in attendance, including Monash University’s Professor Jennie Ponsford who gave a great keynote presentation on sleep and fatigue. Jennie also works with ISCRR on research into traumatic brain injury.

There are several potential applications of these findings into the Australian context. I look forward to working with our partners on their application to the Australian context.

Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety

I then visited Hopkinton Massachusetts, which is just outside Boston and the home of the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety. Liberty Mutual has a top quality research group focussed on work injury and workers compensation—they are internationally  recognised  for the quality of their work in health research. The purpose of my visit was to seek closer ties with them in this, as well as to engage in discussions around their new transport accident research program.

Attendees at WCRG 2016 (Boston)

Every year they host a small workers compensation research group conference which is mainly attended by North Americans, and I was the only attendee from the southern hemisphere (although other Aussies have been involved in the past). I presented the findings of some of the comparative return to work research  we  have been doing with the ComPARE project. The conference was interesting, with an overview of the latest USA research on opioid use and spinal surgery being a highlight. Both are issues here in Australia too but thankfully not of the magnitude the USA is facing.

The main outcome for ISCRR from my visit to Hopkinton was the formation of a new collaboration with Liberty Mutual on motor vehicle accident research. They are just investing some more effort into this area and are looking at ISCRR and the John Walsh Centre in Sydney as leading centres internationally  to  form partnerships with. I spent a day with their new research group on this topic and am confident this will turn into a more formal collaboration between ISCRR and Liberty Mutual in the coming months and years.