Confessions of a Kevin Pearce Groupie
| Sep 30, 2013 7:00 AM
I’m proud to report that I am now one of 26,000-plus Twitter followers of @KevinPearce, a self-described, “Motivational speaker, recovering traumatic brain injury survivor, pro snowboarder, and frend*.” Mostly I’m a fan of his “Love Your Brain” initiative.
Kevin is the star of a documentary titled, “The Crash Reel”, which tells the story of his devastating accident on the half-pipe at Park City a month before the 2010 Olympics. That year Kevin had consistently defeated Shaun White, the world champion of snowboarding, and expectations for Kevin’s performance at the Olympics were high.
“The Crash Reel,” directed by two-time Academy Award nominee Lucy Walker and co-produced by Diane and Sam Stewart, two generous University of Utah donors, takes us on Kevin’s journey. As a daredevil toddler Kevin followed his older brother Adam—also a snowboarding champion in his day—off their roof and off makeshift snow piles in their yard. As a daredevil young man Kevin rode his snowboard to victory at many world-class events including the Swatch TTR World Snowboard Tour and the Winter X Games XII, where he won three medals. We also get to know Kevin’s three brothers including the most emotionally articulate David, with Down’s syndrome. In Kevin’s quest to be the world’s top snowboarder he harnessed the sponsorship of major brands like Nike and Burton, along with his own fearless spirit. At the same time the height of competitive half-pipe walls grew from 9 to 22 feet, meaning that to be the world champion Kevin needed to develop and master unimaginably challenging and risky jumps like the double cork.
Without spoiling the story, the major focus of the film is on traumatic brain injury (TBI), how it occurs, its effect on people leading to more risk-taking and more TBI, and how that subsequent damage becomes irreversible. At our special screening of “The Crash Reel” at the Annette Poulson Cumming Nursing building last week, in front of a packed audience of University of Utah supporters, Kevin Pearce, his brother Adam, and Dr. Bill Couldwell, chair of neurosurgery, president of AANS and the doctor who operated on Kevin right after his accident, met again for the first time. The audience expressed their concerns about the safety of extreme sports, and the “Hunger Games”-like consequences of pushing young adults who willingly risk their lives in the pursuit of excellence. Should extreme sports be more closely regulated? Or should competitors be given the opportunity to push their own limits?
Reflecting on the evening and on the ever-present news of brain injury in professional sports and among our combat veterans, I ask myself what more can we at the University of Utah do to help in this field? We have some tremendous scientists and clinicians working in this field, but we can do more. Leave a comment or send me an email about your thoughts about how we can all contribute to the “Love Your Brain” mission.
*The “Frend” crew is a collective group of friends, spelled without the “I” to encourage the collegial roots of snowboarding.
Author: Vivian S. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A.
About the Author: Dr. Vivian S. Lee is the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences at the University of Utah, Dean of the University of Utah School of Medicine, and CEO of University of Utah Health Care. Read her full bio herecomments powered by Disqus