Australian MMA fighter first to test virtual reality concussion technology

Amena Hadaya started learning Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) with the encouragement of her brothers, but what started as a little exercise has turned into a full-blown passion.

But on the cusp of her career debut, the 24-year-old has been reminding her of the high risk of brain injury in her chosen sport.

“Obviously this affects us as we grow up,” she said.

“My mom keeps telling me this, she’s a nurse.

“You just need to take the right precautions to avoid affecting you later and developing a chronic disease.”

The Wollongong resident volunteered to be one of the first MMA fighters to test an emerging technology designed to revolutionize brain injury management.

A dark-haired woman stands smiling with her hands on her hips.
Amena was one of the first MMA fighters to test VR technology for concussion management.(ABC Illawarra: Tim Fernandez)

Australian-Canadian company NeuroFlex uses virtual reality (VR) technology to accurately read eye movements and establish a baseline of participants’ brain health.

Athletes are then tested against this baseline following a head injury to determine when the brain has healed and whether it is safe to return to competitive sports.

“Obviously, when I grow up, I want to remember my name,” Ms Hadaya said.

“I want to be able to remember my family, the things I’ve done. I don’t want to forget those things because it’s obviously possible.”

two men looking at computer
Colby Thicknesse (left) and Jeff Rogers hope the technology will help him protect his brain.(ABC Illawarra: Tim Fernandez)

3 concussions in less than a year

Colby Thicknesse, 23, has started his professional mixed martial arts career, winning his first two fights.

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