The effects of trauma and injury on the brain, as devastating as they can be, are in some ways like a mystery novel. While there are patterns to certain symptoms resulting from certain kinds of injury, you never quite know how each individual brain will respond. Some people lapse into a coma; others wind up with abilities to play music or paint. Some get withdrawn or exhibit stroke-like impairments of speech and behavior, while others demonstrate a new physical and social freedom.
One thing is certain–brain trauma is never expected, and carries life-changing consequences for its victims and their loved ones.
It’s no wonder, then, that documentary films abound examining the subject of brain injury and trauma. These real-life stories attempt to shed light on the mysterious channels of the body’s response to malfunctions in its control center — how the brain attempts to reconfigure, how the body adjusts to help in the healing process and how doctors are constantly forming new opinions and designing treatments that allow brain trauma victims to not only survive their injury, but thrive in recovery.
Here are some of the top films we have found in recent years relating to traumatic brain injury:
1. “The Crash Reel” (2013)
Elite snowboarder Kevin Pearce was favored to take home gold at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. But while training in Park City, Utah, a tricky maneuver took him down headfirst on the half-pipe. Struck just over his left eye, he was airlifted from the scene and ended up at Craig Hospital in Denver, a rehabilitation center that specializes in traumatic brain injury.
The documentary chronicles Kevin’s joy and athleticism in the sport that ultimately led to his downfall and the three uncertain years of rehabilitation that followed it. It focuses particularly on the emotional impact, not only to Kevin, but to his family, who had to adapt to the “new” Kevin while continuing to offer support to a loved one who was eager to resume competing in the sport that had caused his injury.
Those who have supported a loved one through TBI will find much to empathize with in this film. It gives a comprehensive and honest look at the personal fallout from brain injury, and the surprising results it can have in growing a family and a community around a common cause.
2. Head Games (2012)
Directed by Steve James, who brought us the legendary sports movie Hoop Dreams, this documentary examines all sides of the controversial issue of sports league demands and players’ vulnerability. From interviews with major sports executives and world-renowned athletes to a pee-wee football game in Chicago, the film attempts to separate fact from fiction in the matter of concussions suffered by athletes, and whether their handlers knew more about the risks than they let on.
Along with this high-profile issue, the documentary delves into the struggles of young athletes, parents and coaches who don’t have the resources and/or knowledge necessary to stop significant head trauma. It looks particularly into the work of former Harvard football player Chris Nowinski, who brought this issue to national attention and, in 2007, teamed with renowned sports concussion expert Dr. Robert Cantu to found the Sports Legacy Institute for studying brain trauma and prevention in athletes and other at-risk groups.
3. Caris’ Peace (2011)
This documentary tells the tale of how a TBI kept a renowned actress from reaching her prime. Trained since childhood in dance and singing, a graduate of Yale drama school and a seasoned pro on the stage, Caris Corfman was left unable to memorize lines, remember cues or take direction after the removal of a brain tumor. Defying the notion that no one in her position could reclaim a career, Caris was determined to return to the New York stage. This compelling movie shows her journey.
4. The Music Never Stopped (2011)
This is not actually a documentary, but instead a poignant and beautifully acted feature film based on a selection from Oliver Sacks’ book on seven neurological case histories. The Music Never Stopped is about a young man reunited with his estranged father after a brain tumor takes away his ability to form new memories. Their awkward bonding in the midst of turbulent, unresolved emotions is a reminder of how painful and yet transformative it can be to support a loved one in the aftermath of brain injury.
Help For TBI Victims
If you or a loved one have experienced traumatic brain injury, you may need legal help. Contact the Brain Injury Law Center to speak with an attorney who has made a career out of handling brain injury cases. We can offer you a free case evaluation to help you understand your legal rights and options.