Australian MMA fighters first to test virtual reality concussion technology

Amena Hadaya was encouraged by her brothers to take up mixed martial arts (MMA), but what started as a bit of practice has blossomed into an all-consuming passion.

But as she approaches her pro debut, the 24-year-old lives with a constant reminder of the high risk of brain injury in her chosen sport.

“Obviously that’s going to affect us later when we’re older,” she said.

“I get told that all the time by my mother, she’s a nurse.

“You just have to take the right precautions to avoid later being affected and developing chronic diseases.”

The Wollongong resident has volunteered to be one of the first MMA fighters to test new technology that aims to revolutionize the treatment of brain injuries.

A woman with dark hair standing with her hands on her hips and smiling.
Amena is 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 take accurate measurements of eye movement and create a baseline of participants’ brain health.

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

“Of course I want to remember my name when I’m older,” Ms. Hadaya said.

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

Two men look at the computer
Colby Thicknesse (left) with Jeff Rogers hopes the technology can help protect his brain.(ABC Illawarra: Tim Fernandez)

Three concussions in less than a year

At the age of 23, Colby Thicknesse has already started his professional MMA career and has won his first two fights.


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