Traumatic Brain Injury Blog

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“The Crash Reel.” Former snowboarding champion Kevin Pearce remains a winner as a TBI survivor

By on July 29, 2013 In TBI In Sports
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The Crash ReelOscar-nominee Lucy Walker’s captivating new HBO documentary film about Vermont snowboarder Kevin Pearce provides extraordinary insight into the impact of a traumatic brain injury on both the victim of the injury – in this case an Olympic gold medal contender –  and his family. The film, which recently premiered on HBO, will most certainly have a profound impact since it is both thrilling and entertaining – and therefore likely to be watched by many – and at the same time provides important, often misunderstood, information about the long-term physical and emotional impacts of the injury as well as the secret to finding a fulfilling life following a traumatic brain injury.

The movie follows two compelling journeys. The first journey is Kevin’s determined rise to the top of the snowboarding world, which ended with a near fatal brain injury following a dramatic crash on the half-pipe at Park City, leaving him in a 10-day coma. The second more arduous journey follows Kevin and his family and friends through a gut-wrenching rehabilitation process and a short-lived attempt to return to competition.

Kevin’s story does not end the way of fictionalized accounts, with a successful comeback, but instead, like most brain injury victims, leads to a gradual recognition that his brain injury will have disruptive lasting effects and that he will never be who he was before the injury. Kevin’s struggle to come to terms with his changed brain, and the critical support he receives from his close family through this process, is in many ways the most compelling part of the story.  The support Kevin gets from his family is inspirational for other families facing similar challenges. What makes this part of the story particularly compelling is the role played by Kevin’s brother David, who has Downs Syndrome. David consistently speaks from the heart, expressing in unfiltered terms what other members of the family are thinking and feeling. This gives David, who struggles with his own disability, a unique ability to help his brother Kevin.

Many victims of brain injury are unable to escape the despair caused by recognizing that pre-accident abilities will never come back.  The resilience that brought Kevin to the top of the snowboarding world sustains him through this despair and brings him to another victory, a  recognition that his experience qualifies him to make a real difference in the world as an advocate for brain injury prevention and awareness.

As Kevin told the audience at a showing at HBO’s Manhattan Studio:  “I feel like I’ve gained the most valuable thing in life, I can help.”

Love Your BrainKevin has started the LOVE YOUR BRAIN  campaign which includes a variety of initiatives, including promotion of helmet use and guidance on TBI recovery.

Kevin is also sharing his hard-earned insights at events like Vermont’s upcoming 25th Annual Brain Injury Conference on October 8, 2013, where he will be the keynote speaker.

Don’t miss this movie and this amazing young man!

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