There are plenty of people who like to make fun of anyone wearing a helmet, whether it’s skateboarding, riding a bicycle or other athletic activities. They think it’s simply unnecessary. What’s the worst that could happen? But when those people hear my story, it quickly wipes the smug look right off their faces. My example shows that a helmet can sometimes make the difference between life and death.
If I hadn’t been wearing any protection on my head on December 31, 2009, it’s fairly certain that I wouldn’t be here today. At least that’s what the doctors think. At the time I was one of the world’s top snowboarders and was training for the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. During a particularly difficult trick, I lost control and slammed head first onto the frozen halfpipe. I was airlifted to the University of Utah with serious injuries to my head. But what’s most important for me is that I survived.
I still have problems with my eyes to this day, but I’m not complaining and I also never look back. The luck that I had back then has become a commitment for me in the meantime. In 2014, my brother and I founded the Love Your Brain Foundation. We want to ensure that people take more responsibility for their safety—for themselves and their brains.
The brain is our most important organ: it’s what makes us human. I do a lot of traveling around the world, giving talks and raising awareness about safety and health. We bring together people who feel the same way we do. And we’ve formed a huge community of people who run programs and offer therapies to help others who have to deal with brain injuries.
It may sound a bit self-important, but I think that I can make a difference because of my fame. Words have a lot of power, at least that’s my opinion. But they’re just one side of the issue. At the same time, protective equipment must be 100 percent safe. It’s essential to know that you can depend on your equipment. That’s the only way competitive athletes can really achieve top performances and hobbyists can enjoy their activities.
I’m already looking forward to winter, when I can be out and about on my snowboard. I left the professional scene long ago—I only ride for fun now, with friends. I still really enjoy snowboarding because I know that I can’t just take it for granted. I always check my equipment before heading out to be certain that everything is okay. Because I, of all people, know best that it can save your life in the end.
Kevin Pearce, 30, is a former professional snowboarder from the United States. He was among the best in the world for years. In 2009, he seriously injured himself while training and was forced to end his career.