Contributed by Alice Theadom, Director of the TBI Network
I’ve been working the field of brain injury and concussion for the last 10 years now. It’s been a fantastic journey and I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in some great projects, work with some fabulous people and learn an incredible amount along the way. Recently however, I have realised that I’ve been so focused on writing papers, chasing research funding and supporting students that I haven’t been giving enough time and attention to why I actually entered academia in the first place… to make a real difference to people’s lives!
It’s also a personal thing. In 2011, I experienced a concussion myself - not that I knew about it at the time. I fell off a bolting horse and had multiple complex fractures to my arm and shoulder. My orthopaedic surgeon and rehab professionals were amazing and my shoulder was patched up in no time… however, that wasn’t the end of my journey.
It was only after I stopped the painkillers and started to go back to work that my OT noticed something wasn’t quite right. I was struggling to concentrate, my emails were confused, I was still so fatigued… you know the signs.
Once my concussion was picked up, I got the help and advice I needed. Even though I worked in the field and should’ve known just what to do, I still needed someone to talk through how it was affecting me specifically. The individual experience is so different to others and what the generic research says. I was one of the lucky ones, but I often reflect on why nobody asked me about my head at the emergency department or how things might have played out if my OT hadn’t picked it up.
So after taking time to reflect, I decided to change my approach! With the help of a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship, my faculty, the wider university and some amazing like-minded colleagues, last year we launched the TBI Network.
The idea of the TBI Network is to help researchers undertake the research that matters, rather than the research that’s ‘nice to have’ or ‘what’s easy to do and publish’. To successfully focus on research that is going to make a real difference to the lives of individuals and their whānau suffering from TBI, we need the input from clinicians, policymakers and people with experience of TBI (both their own and from those who have supported those suffering from TBI), the power of the network.
After talking to members of the TBI Network last year about where to prioritise our efforts initially, we’re currently working on:
- How we can identify brain injuries more consistently across primary and emergency care and the different health care professions.
- Different care pathways and how referrals might be processed more efficiently.
- Undertaking more research into TBIs in vulnerable populations such as those in the youth justice systems, our prisons or those who suffer interpersonal violence.
- Evaluating new treatments such as the treatment of visual disturbances and sharing the most up-to-date knowledge from across the globe.
These are all complex and difficult issues, but we hope that they are areas that will make the biggest impact. To do this though we need to work together…
So we invite anyone with an interest in TBI to join the Network. Its free (we’re a not-for -profit entity reliant on donations) and you can be as involved as little or as much as you like! You can see some of the things we’ve been up to already on our website:
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