HBO Documentaries premiered a great one this week, profiling the rise and fall and acceptance of snowboarding champion Kevin Pearce, who rose to the top of the professional snowboarding circuit only to literally crash and burn with a “TBI” or Traumatic Brain Injury in 2010, only months before the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
I don’t snowboard, I don’t like skiing around snowboarders, and the culture of blasting music as they half-pipe away on some sylvan slope while wearing baggy pants is lost on me. But I did suffer a head injury myself in 2006 when I was blasted off my bike by a teenage driver, splitting the helmet that saved my life; and while my injuries were no where near as traumatic as Pearce’s, I can empathize with his description of a brain injury as a “silent and invisible” injury, one that is pernicious in its effects, disquieting to one’s love ones, and slow to recover from.
Crash Reel is a good look inside of the crazed world of extreme sports, one that routinely injures and mains skateboarders, skimobile riders, skiers and cyclists. The insouciant “awesome dude” culture has its toll, and this film peels away the bravado to show the true devastation a brain injury can have on a young man and his family. It was hard for me to watch and I was barely injured, never lost consciousness, and was able to get back to work within a month. But if you’ve ever had a solid concussion or seen a kid on a bike without a helmet, well, Crash Reel is going to to strike a chord.