Former Pro Snowboarder Helps Other Brain Injury Survivors Heal with Yoga

 

Yoga can help connect mind and body after a traumatic brain injury, according to Love Your Brain. Photo: Audrey Rudolf

Yoga can help connect mind and body after a traumatic brain injury, according to Adam Pearce of Love Your Brain. Photo: Audrey Rudolf

He was a favourite to compete at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics but American snowboarder Kevin Pearce never made it to Cypress Mountain. Just over a month before the halfpipe event took place, Kevin suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) while training in Park City, Utah.

In the documentary The Crash Reel – about Kevin’s accident and subsequent rehabilitation – the realities of TBI are brought to the forefront. While dealing with the physical fallout of the accident, Kevin also had to grapple with the toll the life-changing accident was taking on his mental health. In the film, Kevin talks about being on antidepressants and wanting for it all to be over. To a therapist he says, “I just don’t know how to fix it… It’s just like, will it never end? Just feels like it never will.”

“It ignited quite a bit for us,” says Kevin’s brother Adam, who was also a competitive snowboarder. “It really brought to light to us the prevalence of TBI and lack of resources for people with this lifelong injury.” He took a leave of absence from his job and spent a year by Kevin’s side. Through their journey together they founded Love Your Brain, a non-profit organization with a focus on brain injury prevention and healing. “It’s all about empowering people to help themselves. We provide the support and tools.” Since the organization’s start just over two years ago, they have moved into therapy through yoga. “A brain injury disconnects you from your own mind and your body can be disconnected. Yoga can get you more in touch with that,” says Adam.

Adam Pearce (r) spent a year by his brother's side after Kevin's (l) accident. Photo: Lululemon

Adam Pearce (r) spent a year by his brother’s side after Kevin’s (l) accident. Photo: Lululemon

It was through yoga that Traction on Demand first came across Love Your Brain. Lululemon, which had been helping to expand their program, suggested Traction get involved after hearing Love Your Brain’s desire to move onto Salesforce. Molly Barrett, development director, had worked on the platform in previous jobs and thought it was just what they needed to keep track of all the people they were starting to engage with as their reach continued to widen across the U.S. and now, Canada.

“Right now, we don’t have a real contact management system being used across the organization so it will make biggest difference,” says Molly. “Keeping in contact with people we’re interacting with – everything will be connected in Salesforce and we will be able to holistically see the different ways people can get involved with Love Your Brain.” Traction for Good, Traction’s philanthropic arm, is providing a grant to help cover the cost of the Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack implementation.

Adam makes it clear that Love Your Brain’s approach is not about recovery, rather it’s about healing and prevention. “It’s not about returning to what you used to be. It’s not realistic to think you will return to what you were,” he says.

While Kevin is not the elite athlete he was before, his will to push himself even under the circumstances is a testament to the old him.

And yes, he did strap on a board to ride once again.