Kevin Pearce was a rising star in the world of extreme snowboarding. He was winning medals and on his way to the Olympics — until his attempt at a daring stunt went wrong and left him in a coma.
That accident, his ensuing recovery and his previous ascent to the top of his sport are the subject of a film that is rapidly gaining the attention of critics and audiences.
“His story is so extreme,” filmmaker Lucy Walker told HBO. “It dramatizes how high the stakes are. And his passion for the sport is incredible given what he’s been through. There’s something very intense about that. He’s just a very charming and humble young man, even when his eyes were looking in different directions and he kept reintroducing himself because he couldn’t remember meeting me.”
The Price of Extreme Sports
Pearce awoke from his coma as a different person, and his traumatic brain injury meant he had to relearn how to walk and talk. Once he overcame those hurdles, he had to decide whether he would take up snowboarding again. While the sport was his passion, doctors explained that even the mildest injury to his head could result in dangerous consequences — even death.
He eventually decided not to take the risk.
From Olympic Dreams to Safety Advocate
The Crash Reel asks whether it is safe to continue pushing the limits of extreme sports in the face of risks of injuries like those Pearce suffered. But it doesn’t have all the answers.
The Crash Reel’s filmmakers began LoveYourBrain, a campaign to spread awareness on traumatic brain injuries, particularly in sports. The Pearce family established The Kevin Pearce Fund to help families affected by traumatic injuries.
The Best Prevention: Brain Injury Education
Through his own journey portrayed in the film, Pearce promotes safety and helmets. The LoveYourBrain website has statistics on traumatic brain injuries and an infographic with instructions on how to react when you hit your head.
Brain injuries have increasingly been in the spotlight — particularly in sports — since researchers have established a connection between repeated, seemingly innocuous injuries to the head and severe brain trauma. A series of former NFL players and their families sued the National Football League, claiming the league withheld information on brain injuries from its players.