NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Recovery Following Road Traffic Injuries

Professor Michele Sterling is associate director of RECOVER Injury Research Centre and the director of the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Recovery Following Road Traffic Injuries.

The Centre of Research Excellence in Recovery Following Road Traffic Injuries addresses the urgent need to improve health outcomes for individuals with non-hospitalised road traffic crash injury through translational research, capacity building and end-user engagement focused on primary care and community-based interventions.

The health burden created by major injuries, such as spinal cord and brain injury, is clearly recognised. What is not so well recognised is the costly impact associated with the large number of non-hospitalised injuries that occur each year as a result of road traffic crashes. Despite the fact that non-hospitalised minor injuries comprise about 75 per cent of all survivable road traffic crash injuries, the poor physical and mental health outcomes in this group receive little research attention.

Our research and that of others has shown that up to 50 per cent of these individuals will develop chronic pain and long-term disability and a significant proportion (up to 30 per cent) will have mental health problems such as post traumatic stress disorder and depression. Individuals with mental health problems report higher levels of disability, pain and reduced physical function and are associated with double the healthcare utilisation and greater time off work compared to those with physical injury alone.