Aussie MMA club using Virtual Reality technology to help combat concussions

Wollongong MMA athletes from Australia are the first to test a new concussion management device that uses virtual reality. In various important athletic disciplines, the treatment of brain injuries is increasingly receiving more attention.

Amena Hadaya is getting ready to compete professionally in mixed martial arts (MMA). She has chosen to volunteer to be one of the first athletes in her sport to try out a cutting-edge medical innovation that hopes to transform the way brain injuries are treated.

Hadaya told ABC,

“Obviously this (MMA) is going to affect us later on when we are older. I get told this all the time by my mum, she’s a nurse. You just have to take the correct precautions to avoid it later on affecting you and developing chronic illnesses.”

An Australian-Canadian startup called NeuroFlex has developed a virtual reality headgear. It monitors the users’ eye and head movements in order to establish a baseline for their brain health.

Following a head injury, users are evaluated against this baseline to determine whether the brain has recovered and when it is safe to resume competing.

Another fighter who has chosen to volunteer to test the new equipment is rising Wollongong star Colby Thicknesse. He has already had three concussions this year.

The 23-year-old who may one day be participating in the UFC added, ‘I have suffered a few, so I need to make sure I’m ticking all the boxes and doing everything correctly, so I don’t come back too soon and suffer longer-term consequences.”

“You can have knee injuries, hip injuries, arms, anything you can hurt you can normally come back from it, but if you have a bad brain injury there’s not a lot you can do about that.”

The popularity of mixed martial arts (MMA) has increased over the last 15 years. Clinical neuropsychologist Jeff Rogers argues that utilizing headsets is a fantastic approach to managing brain injuries and collecting data to safeguard future athletes.

He told, “We are just beginning to understand the effects of a single concussion, let alone the cumulative effects of four to six of these over a lifetime.”

“[We] are really excited to be part of the process of starting to accumulate really good solid evidence … to start to guide some of these professional bodies and professional codes.”

The NeuroFlex headsets will also be used by concussed players during the World Cup in Qatar this year as part of the most comprehensive set of procedures FIFA has ever implemented at a major Football competition.