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Symposium looks to future

Emma Breheny

The APA NSW Symposium is looking forward for 2016, with presentations that respond to the theme ‘Physiotherapy: an evolving world’. Among those presenting at the NSW Symposium are Dr Kenneth Graham, principal scientist at the New South Wales Institute of Sport, and APA Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist Professor Kathryn Refshauge of University of Sydney.

Kenneth Graham 

Dr Kenneth Graham, Chief Scientist at New South Wales Institute of Sport, is speaking at 2016 NSW Symposium Kenneth Graham’s position as principal scientist at the New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS) gives him an excellent vantage point of the latest technological developments in sports medicine. A large part of his role involves working with Sydney Sports Incubator, a collaborative effort between NSWIS, Sydney Olympic Park Authority, Lakeba Group and Sports Camps Australia that tests start-up concepts and new products before they go to market.

‘If you were a start-up company with a new sports sock that helps proprioception around the ankle, you might have questions around developing a business plan, marketing the sports sock or testing the product. The incubator helps to get those things done,’ he explains.

Seeing these early stages of product development gives Kenneth unparalleled knowledge of the future directions for technology use in sport. Key areas of development include bio-sensory technology, smart clothing, non-Newtonian fluids and genetics of injury.

A highlight in the bio-sensory area is the development of stick-on metallic ink tattoos that contain a sensor able to measure electrical activity in muscles, providing physiotherapists with an accurate picture of adherence to rehabilitation programs and the rate of improvement.

‘If a physiotherapist can see a four per cent increase in muscle strength, they can relate that increase in muscle strength to the amount of training done and then know how to adjust the amount of training in order to achieve improvement at the rate desired,’ Kenneth says.

Such technology is also being built into so-called smart clothing, melding measurement tools with an athlete’s work-out essentials (like compression tights) for even more seamless data capture.

Key areas of development include bio-sensory technology, smart clothing, non-Newtonian fluids and genetics of injury.

Kenneth is also excited by the application of non-Newtonian fluids into aids such as knee braces. ‘There are two types of non-Newtonian fluids: one is a solid that then becomes liquid when something is done to the matter, and the other is a liquid that then becomes solid.

‘In the example of a knee brace, you could have a brace that is freely moveable but if the joint moved in the wrong direction, the brace could become more rigid to stop the joint getting injured,’ he says

Early research into the genetics of training and injury in sport could be a strong predictor of injury, with huge potential for tailored strength and conditioning programs.

‘In the future there is the potential to identify who is predisposed to some connective tissue injuries,’ Kenneth explains.

Such developments have the potential to make sport safer, perhaps increasing participation, and to improve post-injury management and rehabilitation. Easier, more reliable data collection also means that physiotherapists can work in partnership with their patients to test and improve their treatments. The future certainly is bright for sports science.

Kathryn Refshauge

Professor Kathryn Refshauge, Dean of Faculty of Health Sciences at The University of Sydney, is speaking at 2016 NSW SymposiumProfessor Kathryn Refshauge hardly needs an introduction. Her lengthy career as an educator and researcher has been acknowledged through several honorary research positions and a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2016. She is currently Dean of Faculty of Health Sciences at The University of Sydney.

Her vision for the future of healthcare is razor sharp; she speaks with a rare exactitude on what is needed to cope with the significant population and social changes that are currently afoot.

‘This is the decade of allied health. Right now, the health profile of the community involves people living longer, increasing burden from chronic disease and a majority of healthcare being managed in the community. Our core business as physiotherapists touches on all these areas,’ Kathryn says. The next step in Kathryn’s eyes is to gather the evidence to demonstrate this, however there are already some exciting projects underway. She mentions work by Professor Jennifer Alison on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Sarah Dennis’ examination of health service delivery models, and Mark Onslow’s fascinating research into speech pathology’s role in preventing mental health problems for those with a stutter.

The world is working towards multidisciplinary care—particularly with chronic, complex conditions—which is where we have a huge role.

In addition, Kathryn believes allied health professionals need to demonstrate their usefulness in new areas, like aged care and mental health, and be able to offer a clear value proposition for their work.

She’d also like to see allied heath more integrated, with strong and seamless e-health systems underpinning this multidisciplinary system of care.

‘The world is working towards multidisciplinary care—particularly with chronic, complex conditions—which is where we have a huge role.’

To achieve this, she encourages physiotherapists to get more involved with Primary Health Networks, which she has found to be critical for care coordination and changes. ‘You have the full force of the primary healthcare spectrum behind you,’ she says.

If the full potential of this ‘decade of allied health’ is realised, Kathryn is confident that allied health will be considered a valued partner in healthcare, not the place where hospital budgets can be cut during times of economic stress.

If we all get together, we can do it. Every person needs to be a leader in their role; it doesn’t matter who you are or what your position is.’

The APA NSW Symposium is happening on Saturday 25 June. Find out more or register now.


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