Brunel's 24-hour rugby rehabilitation design challenge is a winner

An interdisciplinary 24-hour design  challenge, run by Brunel University London with the goal of developing practical solutions for injured rugby players living with catastrophic injury, has been hailed a great success.

Brunel students had 24 hours to work with an injured rugby player. Photo: Sally Trussler/Brunel University

Students from physiotherapy, occupational therapy and design formed teams of five on 1-2 November, and were joined by representatives of the Rugby Football Union (RFU) Injured Players Foundation.

‘The students had 24 hours to work together as a team with an injured player to identify a problem and design and present a solution. The challenge brought together design and therapy principles to come up with a functional solution,’ explained physiotherapy lecturer Dr Eve Corner.

They were also tasked with presenting in the Japanese Pecha Kucha style, in which 20 slides were shown in 20 seconds to a panel of judges from the university and the RFU Injured Players Foundation.

The winning team, called Pressure, designed a portable, fold up pressure cushion that looked stylish and could be used on an aeroplane to enable people with spinal cord injuries to go on long distance flights. The winners’ prize was tickets to the World Rugby Museum.

Develop a prototype

Another team, DesignRehab, developed a parent-facing baby-carrying device for people with hemiplegic arm. Both ideas will be taken forward, with help from specialists at Stoke Mandeville hospital, with the aim of developing a prototype that can be piloted.

Dr Corner said the novel teaching idea came out of a project to develop an intercollegiate pilot as part of Higher Education Academy training. ‘Brunel has run design challenges before but never involved stakeholders.

‘It was a truly inspiring 24 hours. The designs they came up with were amazing and the way they worked together was phenomenal. Everybody played to their strengths: the design students liked being able to work with stakeholders, the physios could bridge the knowledge gap, and the players, who are all in vocational rehabilitation, made an invaluable contribution.’

‘We hope to run it every year,’ she added.

Brunel students came up with 'amazing' designs. Photo: Sally Trussler/Brunel University

Caroline Searight, client services manager at the RFU Injured Players Foundation and an occupational therapist, called the pilot a ‘forward-thinking project, which was stimulating and challenging for both students and the injured rugby players.

Vocational rehabilitation

‘The students impressed us and the clients felt they made a valuable contribution encouraging them to be more proactive with their ideas. This could be a driving influence in their vocational rehabilitation for the future.’

The RFU Injured Players Foundation (IPF) has, since 2008, been supporting rugby players who sustain a catastrophic spinal cord or traumatic brain injury playing the game or training in England. They help players and their families from the time of injury and throughout their lives, whether they are from the grassroots or professional game, empowering them to lead their lives as fully and independently as possible.

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