Ex-pro snowboarder Pearce, subject of HBO film, details ‘stigma of invisible disability’

Kevin Pearce, left, with Alpha One's Chris Delenick

Kevin Pearce, left, with Alpha One’s Chris Delenick

Four years after former pro snowboarder and Olympic hopeful Kevin Pearce suffered a traumatic brain injury, he’s still healing.

Pearce, 26, the subject of the HBO documentary “The Crash Reel,” discusses the ongoing consequences of his injury in a new podcast aired by Alpha One, a Center for Independent Living, a South Portland nonprofit that helps people with disabilities to live more independently.

Born in New Hampshire and raised in Vermont, Pearce was on his way to qualifying for the Olympics when his life changed in an instant on New Year’s Eve in 2009. While training for the Olympic trials in Park City, Utah, and practicing an exceptionally difficult trick, he hit his head against the edge of a half pipe and was knocked unconscious. Pearce was a favorite to make the U.S. Olympic team and “the rare rider who has beaten the 2006 Olympic gold medalist Shaun White in head-to-head competitions,” the New York Times said at the time.

Pearce was wearing a helmet, but the accident left him in critical condition and in a coma for a week.

In an interview with Alpha One’s Chris Delenick, host of the “Brain Matters Podcast,” Pearce responds to what Delenick calls the “stigma of an invisible disability.” After the acute phase of a brain injury passes, for many the lingering symptoms remain contained in the head, invisible to others, Delenick said.

Pearce still experiences vision, memory, and balance problems, he says in the podcast.

“That is without a doubt the hardest part of a brain injury,” Pearce told Delenick. “There’s no question that I deal with that issue so, so much … There’s no way that anybody in the world could look at me and say that I had such a severe injury.”

Now an advocate for individuals affected by brain injury, Pearce has been selected to carry the Olympic torch in the opening ceremonies for the 2014 winter games in Sochi.

“The Crash Reel” will be shown at Space Gallery in Portland tomorrow, Saturday, Jan. 25. Doors open at 7 p.m., and Delenick will be on hand in the lobby to answer questions.

The “Brain Matters Podcast,” dedicated to covering issues faced by individuals with brain injury, their family members, clinicians, and professionals, is available for download in the iTunes store or can be streamed online at www.brainmattersme.org.

Jackie Farwell

About Jackie Farwell

I'm the health editor for the Bangor Daily News, a Bangor native, a UMaine grad, and a weekend crossword warrior. I never get sick of writing about Maine people, geeking out over health care data, and finding new ways to help you stay well. I live in Gorham with my husband Nick and our hound dog Riley.