ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Wearing the UNM cherry and silver on the football gridiron, basketball court or soccer field is a point of pride for hundreds of Lobo athletes.
But the speed and size of athletes in the college game means there's also a risk in many of those sports of injury including repeated concussions. In the long term, those brain injuries can have debilitating consequences.
Dr. Kent Kiehl with the Mind Research Network and a UNM professor says often times it's tough to tell just how debilitating.
"The problem is the type of injuries that happen in a minor concussion or even in a serious concussion aren't visible with the technologies we use right now," Kiehl told News 13.
That is, unless doctors know what an athlete's brain looked like before the head trauma.
That's the idea behind Project Brain Safe, a collaboration between the Mind Research Network and UNM.
As part of the project, hundreds of Lobo athletes, including football, basketball, volleyball and soccer players, will get yearly comprehensive brain scans.
Those scans, which take about an hour, will be used as baselines. Then if a player has a traumatic brain injury or concussion, they'll receive a new scan which doctors can compare to the yearly scan.
"They'll come back in and we'll analyze, has anything changed?" Kiehl said.
Kiehl says the program is the largest of its kind and will use state-of-the-art technology. He expects researchers will learn a lot.
"If you can understand what changes might occur and how people are resilient, you can develop better helmets, you can develop better treatments and you just have better scientific understanding," Kiehl said.
UNM president Bob Frank and the school's athletic director Paul Krebs says players will benefit too, learning more about their own brains and how they've been affected.
"We need to stop them when they're young so they don't go on and have that long-term debilitating consequence," Frank said. "That's what this protocol can help them do is say you need to stop now before you have this long-term consequence."
"It's a tremendous tool for our team doctors as we make medical decisions," said Krebs. "I think you're going to see schools move in this direction or similar directions."
Kiehl says another side benefit of conducting the scans is that they can discover other medical issues in players, like a brain tumor, much earlier than they might otherwise be discovered.
So far, two Lobo teams of players have gone through the scans. Kiehl expects all of the players in the study will have undergone the scans by the middle of next year.
The Zia is the symbol of New Mexico, but it's on just about everything under the sun from shot glasses to playing cards.
A former prostitute is suing the state and the cop she claims raped her, saying her civil rights were violated.
A New Mexico lawmaker has an idea to take teens’ driver’s licenses away if they drop out of school.
According to the National Weather Service, a storm centered over southeastern Arizona will move into New Mexico on Friday night.
Police responded to a stabbing Friday evening at 12014 Stilwell Drive Northeast.
The UNM board of regents Friday approved $7 million in university money for the Innovate Albuquerque initiative that could bring more good jobs to the city.