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Some want pre-season MRIs for high school athletes

By Ashley Kewish | Posted - Jul 22nd, 2013 @ 7:56pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The Deseret News Pre-Season Poll ranks Bingham as the top high school football team in the state. The Miners, as well as all the other teams, begin practice in two weeks, kicking off the season Aug. 23.

Part of that preparation includes learning better ways to prevent concussions. Some doctors are prescribing pre-season MRI's, a procedure that can cost about $1,000.

Whether it's on the football field or with any other sport, student athletes face the risk of concussions everyday. Although the medical community is just beginning to understand the trauma associated with them, many agree more needs to be done.

K.C. Mullen was playing football his freshman year at Timpview High School when he suffered a devastating hit.

"(I was) running an outside play, hit the ground, ended up getting knocked over, hit the ground and getting hit again," he said.

The recovery has been brutal, but doctors said it could have been a lot easier if he had a simple MRI before he started playing football.

"This functional brain scan was developed to show areas of the brain — the reasoning abilities, memory, the things that are affected by a concussion," said Dr. Ted Kyle with U.S. MRI.

After his injury, a follow-up scan could have revealed exactly what areas of the brain were affected and what the best treatment would be, based on a comparison with his pre-injury scan.

"In a perfect world, that would be a wonderful tool to have," said Lisa Walker with the Utah Sorts Medicine Advisory Council.

"It's a manpower issue, a machine issue, and financial issue," she said. "We're talking about kids coming from all over Utah to get to a limited number of machines."

Currently there are only three functional MRIs in the state. But Kyle said the scans are needed, especially in adolescent athletes.

"The younger the brain the more susceptible to injury the brain is," he said.

It's a test, K.C.'s parent said they wish they knew about and hope will be required in the future.

"On a regular MRI, injuries like this don't even show up," said mother Becky Mullen. "There's not always a detectable difference unless you have the functional MRI."

"I think we're headed that way," Kyle said. "It starts at the top. All of the professional sports are now doing it, and it's going to trickle its way down 5:25:51 to high school athletics and beyond."

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