The Sundance documentary film "The Crash Reel" is hard to watch -- especially if you are the parent of a child who participates in a high-risk sport. The story, which centers on the talented, charismatic snowboarder Kevin Pearce, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in the halfpipe at Park City Mountain Resort, offers an unflinching look at the increasing risks that young athletes are taking in their quest to become world-class competitors.
At the film's premiere in Park City on Saturday, lots of local parents were compelled to avert their eyes during the film's frightening highlight reel of horrific crashes involving skiers and snowboarders, as well as motocross riders and mountain bikers. Many of those parents have kids who are on the ski and snowboarding race circuit right now -- which makes the film's message particularly relevant.
As residents of Park City know too well, Pearce's crash, which occurred while he was training for the 2010 Olympics, is not the only tragedy of its kind. A year later, freestyle skier Sarah Burke died in the same halfpipe.
"The Crash Reel" skillfully raises a number of issues surrounding the increasing popularity of extreme sports, the sponsorship pressures that are forcing the athletes to take greater and greater risks and, in many cases, the lack of support for the athletes who are injured in the process.
Most touching of all, though, the film is a powerful tribute to one athlete's courage and determination to overcome his injury, and his devoted family's essential contribution to his recovery.
Filmmaker Lucy Walker and Pearce are hoping the film will increase awareness of traumatic brain injures, promote prevention, provide support for those who have experienced those injuries and create a network for their families. Primarily a social media effort, #loveyourbrain is already gaining momentum.
This is a conversation our sports-driven community needs to have -- and could help to shape. Park City regularly plays host to the world's top athletes in a range of disciplines from aerial skiing to downhill mountain biking. Now, with a nudge from "The Crash Reel," Park City should also work on developing a reputation as a trendsetter in athlete safety.
For more information about #loveyourbrain, log on to: thecrashreel.com