The Crash Reel: Kevin Pearce’s Journey To Recovery


With the rising expectations of sports and the public’s desire to see athletes perform the most daring, seemingly impossible feats, the rate of sports-related brain injuries is increasing.

A traumatic brain injury is a life-changing event that does not discriminate, and can happen to anyone at any time.

Legendary snowboarder Kevin Pearce’s life changed dramatically in December 2009, when, at age 22, he experienced a brain injury after performing a complicated trick while training for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

On Friday, October 24 at 7 p.m., the 10th Annual FOCUS Film Festival in Chico will feature “The Crash Reel,” a documentary that follows the inspirational, unforgettable journey of Kevin before and after his accident.

Despite experiencing a nearly fatal brain injury that left him in critical condition and in the hospital for months, Kevin made a remarkable recovery through rehabilitation and with the unconditional support of his family, friends and fans. Kevin’s experiences, from his incredible feats on a snowboard to his tragic accident and emotional road to recovery, are all documented in detail in the film.

According to the Brain Trauma Foundation, 1.6 million to 3.8 million sports-related brain injuries occur each year. The Brain Injury Coalition of Chico, and the Accessibility Resource Center of California State University, Chico, are hosting the film because of its potential to bring awareness to the severity of sports injuries and the power of film as a medium to educate the public. “Bringing about that awareness really helps people to have an understanding about brain injury, and this is a perfect way to do it,” said Landa Bell Carter, president of the board of the Brain Injury Coalition. “It’s an interesting film and a realization too. It’s a great way to reach young people.”


Sandy Parsons, the director of the Accessibility Resource Center, believes that “The Crash Reel” will be an excellent way to connect with audiences because of the film’s influential power. “I think films, in particular, offer a tremendous opportunity to make people feel something,” Parsons said. “We have all these laws to tell us how to act, but you can’t make people feel something or understand by passing laws. If you really want to affect change, people need to feel something and feel connected to the issue.”

Kevin Pearce and other survivors of traumatic brain injuries must go through the unique experience of rediscovering themselves because of the symptoms of their injury. Support and understanding from people in their lives and communities can be essential to helping survivors integrate back into society.

“Survivors don’t see themselves as being an inspiration, but they really are,” said Cindy Bell, vice president of the Brain Injury Coalition. “They’re amazing people, and they have a lot to offer.”

Kevin has actively raised awareness through this powerful documentary and through the Kevin Pierce Fund. The fund was created by his family in partnership with the Vermont Community Foundation, to help subsidize organizations supporting families facing similar difficulties. Kevin will conduct a Q&A session via Skype with the audience following the screening.

James O'Hagan
About James O'Hagan

Originally from the U.K., James O'Hagan grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and is currently a senior at Chico State. He has a passion for writing about subjects that are not often discussed, especially the many types of diversity in our society. 

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