DVD: Wipe Out

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Directed by Lionel Goddard
Icarus Films/Fanlight Productions
50 minutes. DVD $248.

This film is the result of a deal professional snowboarder Chris Dufficy made with his doctor after a catastrophic accident. It opens with speeding figures hurtling into spectacular tumbles on snowy slopes and steep bike trails. Then narrator Ross Rebagliati, an Olympic gold medal snowboarder, introduces Dufficy and two other young Canadian men who suffered brain injuries from extreme sports, the leading cause of death and disability on the slopes for males under 35.

Dufficy didn’t wear a helmet until after his seventh concussion. That helmet saved his life when he struck the back of his head during a film shoot. But his brain bounced around in his skull, damaging his frontal lobes, where thoughts are formed. Determined, Dufficy made a remarkable recovery, but still has difficulty processing information – when he watches a movie, for example, he only recalls the end.

Jon Gocer trained for his dream snowboarding career even in summer, racing at 30 kilometers an hour on his skateboard without a helmet. When his head hit the road, frontal lobe damage reduced Gocer’s self-awareness, attention, memory and problem-solving ability.

Chris Tutin forgot his helmet when he sped down a steep hill on his dirt bike, only to discover he had no brakes. Damage to his cerebellum, the brain’s “central processor,” caused severe mental and physical disability. Tutin shakes and cannot walk without assistance. His speech is slurred. He can’t process emotions, is impulsive and can become violent.

Neurosurgeons explain that in the brain’s pre-frontal cortex, the lobes that govern risk-taking behavior don’t develop until around age 25. Despite their nearly fatal injuries and long struggles to heal, these three thrill-seekers still long to return to exciting downhill plunges.

Dufficy’s deal with his doctor was to become a safety advocate, encouraging Gocer and the Tutin to join him in a campaign to persuade younger boys to wear helmets. When they visit schools, Dufficy explains, “Bones heal, but your brain doesn’t.” Then Tutin rivets his audience with his damaged voice as he describes whizzing downhill without brakes. “If you look closely,” he says, “I’m wearing diapers. Which is more embarrassing, wearing diapers down here or helmets up here?”

Researchers hope that increasing understanding of the young male mind will change the way society sanctions risk-taking sports. Meanwhile, this film is a provocative and effective tool. (800) 876-1710, www.icarusfilms.com, www.fanlight.com.