Kevin Pearce was an incredibly skilled and very gifted snowboarder. He was, in fact, so good at what he did that it was widely believed that he stood an incredibly good chance to claim the Olympic gold medal from Shaun White, recognized to be the reigning king of the sport at the time.
Unfortunately, that was before a training run crash in Park City, Utah in Dec. 31, 2009. The accident left him with massive trauma to his body and his brain.
And then he fell into a coma.
He survived but emerged a different athlete and a very different individual.
“The Crash Reel,” a documentary about his life and his accident has been released, telling the incredible story of the young sportsmans rise to stardom, the tragic accident and the emotional and terrific climb back into the spotlight of the sport.
The film hits at a particularly perfect time, as a recent study released by Safe Kids Worldwide has found the shocking truth that one child is injured through sports every 25 seconds in the U.S.
Sports-related injuries like Kevin’s account for some 1.35 million emergency room visits each year, which is about 1 out of every 5 ER visit for both children and adults. A shocking revelation, to be sure.
The sports responsible for the most injuries included basketball, football, soccer, baseball, softball, cheerleading, ice skating and hockey.
Of those ER visits, about 12 percent were specifically for concussions. And the result of this finding is that a child suffers a concussion, which is a specific kind of head injury – every three minutes as a result of a favorite sport or related activity.
Doctors across the US have reported that a good many of these injuries have been reported in athletes that are younger and younger with each passing year. And as an example, around half of those sport related injuries occurred in children between the ages of 12 and 15.
Sports related injuries also seem to grow worse each year. A disturbing truth that was recently uncovered found that severe brain swelling, and specifically the kind that quite often has long-lasting consequences and can even be deadly in a lot of cases is more common in children who have suffered trauma to the head than many adults!
In the recent documentary, “The Crash Reel,” Pearce’s doctors go on to describe the permanent damage that was inflicted to his vision and to his memory. Kevin is now forced to relearn how to talk and even walk. He spends months in rehabilitation. His many friends and rivals go on to compete in the Olympics while Kevin, the man who was once the legend of snowboarding- the guy who was going to beat Shawn White is forced to sit on the sidelines and work towards recovery as best he can.
Doctors tell him with conviction that he is playing with the high risk of his own death if he goes back to the sport he so loves. But for Kevin, it doesn’t matter. He wants it and he will work towards it no matter the cost.
Scary is that the very trick that brought on Pearce’s injury – the cab double cork – has now become a standard within the world of Snowboarding. It’s estimated that some 30,000 concussions each year are soley attributed to skiing and snowboarding accidents caused by tricks like the cab double cork and related tricks and mishaps.
Not all athletes walk away as fortunate as Pearce, either, though. The National Hockey League player Shawn Burr died after suffering a head injury from a fall not long ago. And even though the statistics point in crazy directions, people keep coming.
While often the damage that is inflicted by a brain injury is swift and severe, sometimes this isn’t the case. Sometimes the long-term effects are only revealed over a long period of time.This was partially to blame for the recent changes behind the American Academy of Neurology’s guidelines for head injuries suffered in athletic competition.
The original guidelines graded concussions on severity, from 1 to 3, and easily allowed a player back in the game if they were symptom-free after only 15 minutes. As of the recent changes, however, the grades have (thankfully) been removed and the researchers now allow each injury to be diagnosed case-by-case by a medical doctor. These new guidelines also state that if there is any suspicion whatsoever of a concussion that the player should immediately leave the playing field and be taken to a facility as soon as possible to be given medical treatment. There is also no longer a set time limit for when the player must or can return.
Unfortunately, it’s more often than not that those who suffer a brain injury seek no medical treatment whatsoever.
But hopefully with the help of improved guidelines as well as the growing awareness raised by films like “The Crash Reel,” will help to make this less of an issue. Schools, coaches, parents, and players must learn to take injuries, and most especially injuries involving the brain, more seriously. And with time, we believe this is possible.