How stunt performers struggle with reporting head trauma

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In the heart-pounding action scenes of your favorite blockbuster, it’s not always the A-list actor who takes the risks, but the unsung heroes (stunt performers) who bring those breathtaking moments to life. However, behind this glamor lies a grim reality: the reluctance of these daredevils to report head trauma for fear it could jeopardize their careers.

In the recently released blockbuster ‘The Fall Guy’, audiences get a behind-the-scenes look at what stunt professionals go through to create the most exciting moments. stunts can have a negative effect on their health.

Ohio University researchers Dr. Jeffrey Russell and Dr. Elizabeth Beverly have delved into this issue through a new qualitative study published in the Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology, which amplifies the voices of stunt performers who often go unheard. Their research, published as a follow-up to an earlier study, sheds light on the challenges stunt professionals face regarding self-reporting of head injuries and the potential long-term consequences for their health and livelihoods.

“This qualitative study allows stunt performers to describe in their own words their experiences with head injuries, how to deal with them and how the industry can improve the health and well-being of stunt performers in their future,” said Russell, associate professor at the University of California. College of Health Sciences and Professions, said.

The study was co-authored by Canadian stunt performers and provides an invaluable platform for members of their profession to share their experiences anonymously. It exposes widespread fear among performers that reporting injuries could lead to them being sidelined or labeled a liability, jeopardizing their future employment opportunities.

“Many stunt performers are afraid to report their injuries, especially head trauma, for fear that they will be placed on a ‘do not hire’ list or considered a liability,” Russell explained. “The more injuries or trauma, the more difficult it can be to find work. But it shouldn’t be that way; production companies and their unions must ensure that stunt performers are cared for and not reprimanded for any injuries they sustain on the job. “

Leslie McMichael, stunt coordinator, stunt performer and co-author of the study, provides first-hand insight into the challenges stunt professionals face. Based on her experiences, she emphasizes the need for proactive measures to prevent and address head injuries when they occur.

“In my first ten years of working as a stunt performer, I noticed that there were certain people with behavioral problems and discovered that many of them had suffered repeated head trauma while not having proper safety when performing stunts such as car accidents, said McMichael, who has done stunts in films such as ‘X-Men: The Last Stand,’ ‘Final Destination 3’ and ‘Fantastic Four.’

“Especially back in the day, safety wasn’t at the forefront, so there are several older stunt performers that I’ve met or heard of where growing older was cognitively more difficult for them because of the injuries they sustained while performing stunts. When I Started Then When I saw this more and more, I knew that it was a real problem in our sector and that this population group does not often seek medical help for fear of becoming unemployed.”

According to Beverly, who helped analyze the qualitative data, this study highlights the importance of understanding the emotional and psychological toll of health conditions on individuals.

“The power of qualitative research is that it gives participants a voice to express what is important to them and why,” says Beverly, Osteopathic Heritage Foundation Ralph S. Licklider, DO Endowed Professor in Behavioral Diabetes at Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine . “So often in healthcare we think about quantitative results because it is often easier to understand a numerical value. What we forget or neglect to ask is how the state of health makes people feel. How we feel often dictates our thoughts and behavior. Overall, this can improve communication, treatment engagement and clinical outcomes.”

While this qualitative study doesn’t provide numerical evidence, it offers something more: an official account from stunt performers themselves, not anecdotes or hearsay. This type of research can be taken to studios and unions to use as tools for advocating improvements in this area.

“We have seen the negative effects of head trauma in football and other sports and changes have been made over the past five years to prevent and reduce the number of concussions,” Beverly explains. “My hope is that the film industry will draw parallels and see this as an opportunity to intervene and make changes. Stunt performers are an integral part of the entertainment industry and deserve to work in a safe environment.”

The survey findings also show that there is a clear need to improve the quality of the working environment in their sector.

As a performer, McMichael performs stunts ranging from martial arts to driving scenes, working with fire, high falls and more, but notes that due to the nature of the work, even if someone gets injured, he or she will continue to endure the pain. To be able to work.

“Unfortunately, with head trauma, there isn’t a lot of physical evidence to tell your union or studio about it or to take to your insurance company to make sure you can be taken care of. People want to work in this industry and make a living a stunt performer who stands on set and constantly makes themselves perform potentially dangerous stunts when they should be resting and taking care of their body and brain. But that doesn’t pay the bills.

The groundbreaking work of both McMichael and Russell has laid the foundation for advancing research in this critical area and their advocacy works to promote a culture of safety and support within the industry, ensuring that the welfare of stunt performers remains a top priority .

“It’s cool to be involved in something where I can help and possibly give back to the people I’ve worked with for a long time,” says McMichael, who also has a Ph.D. in Media Psychology, added.

Russell has also created an international task force made up of stunt performers, researchers and healthcare professionals from around the world to help advocate for the health of stunt performers.

More information:
Jeffrey A. Russell et al, Stunt performers’ reluctance to self-report head trauma: a qualitative study, Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology (2024). DOI: 10.1186/s12995-024-00401-0

Provided by Ohio University

Quote: Taking the Fall: How stunt performers struggle with reporting head trauma (2024, June 10) retrieved June 10, 2024 from

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