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Multimovement Therapy may be of significant benefit to those with acquired brain injuries, say CQUni academics

Published:17 March 2021

CQUni alumnus Dr Ragnar Purje and Johnny Famechon in 2018.

Multimovement Therapy (MMT), which allowed former world-champion boxer Johnny Famechon to walk and talk again after a shocking trauma, might be considered by practitioners and those affected by an acquired brain injury or other similar neurological issues, according to two CQUni academics.

Neuroscience experts, Dr Ragnar Purje and Prof Ken Purnell have penned the paper, Multimovement Therapy and the Brain, which explains the benefits – and further potential – of the treatment.

In 1991 Johnny Famechon (the former World Champion Boxer who retired in 1970) was struck by a car travelling at 100kmh in Sydney and after some 18 months in four hospitals was released into the care of his wife, Glenys, wheelchair-bound, unable to walk, talk or feed himself. The medical experts said that was as good as John would ever be – which, at that time, was generally the case for such a severe acquired brain injury.

On Christmas Eve, 1993, Dr Ragnar Purje met for the first time with Mr Famechon and over the coming months, was able to build a rapport and the MMT treatment plan.

MMT involves complex and multiple body movements at the same time – up to six – under the guidance of a trained therapist. For example, raising the right arm perpendicular to the ground, while rotating the left foot and moving the head side to side while keeping the eyes focussed on one spot. This ‘overloads’ the brain stimulating new neural networks and re-igniting/repairing others.

Over four years of weekly sessions of two-hours, Dr Purje was helped Mr Famechon move the fingers of his left hand, and then his arm, align his left and right legs until gradually, he was able to stand and later, walk (ten-weeks after MMT commenced) and run short distances (at 14 weeks) on his own. Ultimately, Mr Famechon learned to speak and read again and has lived a fairly normal life.

Treatment included utilising Mr Famechon’s own boxing techniques (for example, swaying) and extending the movements through ongoing ‘stretch-goals’ that took Mr Famechon from where he was actually at and he extended himself with the directions from Dr Purje.

Prof Purnell said the treatment’s fundamental purpose was to change the patient’s own neurology and the academics said the similar processes involving focussed attention and students being active could support other patients, and might also be used in education techniques to improve learning.

The paper is expected to be published later this year in a professional outlet for teachers and clinicians.