Feature 

Head games, part I

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While people make up their minds and recreational industries way the pros and cons, the number of brain injury victims is piling up

When "Major" Dave Bowers, an up and coming skateboarder from Surrey, died at Lions Gate Hospital in January of 2001 from pneumonia stemming from a brain injury, it sent shockwaves through the community of skaters, snowboarders, BMX’ers and inline skaters – the people who knew who he was and best understood what he was all about.

The major papers picked up on his story, which is a mix of both irony and tragedy.

It was ironic because he sustained the brain injury while trying to avoid being injured. With only a week to go before he was to compete in a major amateur competition in Tampa, Florida, he decided to take time off skateboarding because he was worried he might get hurt before the competition. He went snowboarding at Mount Seymour instead, something he considered low risk. But he landed on his head off a jump.

Although the concussion was technically "survivable," Bowers choked on his own vomit and contracted a staph infection that led to pneumonia. Five days later he was dead.

It was tragic because Major Dave was just 20 years old and on the verge of making his dreams come true. He was touring the U.S. as a member of the Libtech amateur team. He was in skate magazines and videos, and was sponsored by DuFFs shoes, Spitfire Wheels, and Fluid Sports in Langley.

He was also about to come into millions of dollars from a stock option, enough money to allow him to live his life as he chose.

While it can never be known whether a helmet could have prevented the untimely death of Major Dave, the hospital was not shy in attributing his death to the brain injury. Clay Adams, a spokesman for Lions Gate Hospital told the Vancouver Sun that it is not uncommon for people who have suffered head injuries to vomit and then inhale vomit particles that can lead to infection. "It was one of those real tragedies that came about because of the injury."

Skaters around the province have since honoured Major Dave’s memory in spray paint, and with tributes at their local skateparks. An eight-foot quarterpipe at Surrey Athletic Park – Bower’s home turf – has an eight-foot "R.I.P. Major Dave" to commemorate his life.

While a bit of fame and notoriety brought the Major Dave story into West Coast living rooms, the tragedy and irony repeats itself as more and more thrill seekers sustain head injuries.

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