How A Traumatic Brain Injury Affected My Life, with Josh Perry

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

It’s been said that the act of failing only occurs if you don’t get back up again. No one knows this concept more than pro BMXer Josh Perry, who has fallen (both figuratively and literally) countless times. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen, Tana Amen, and Josh describe what it’s like to get back up when recovering from something like a traumatic brain injury.

Read Full Transcript

Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcasts we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by Brain MD where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. We're here with Josh Perry, BMX biker champion, brain tumor survivor, brain trauma survivor, and you were just telling us in the break that... Was it after a year coming back?
Josh Perry: Yeah, surgery was April, 2010 and this was about July. I believe it was July, 2011. Ocean City, Maryland.
Dr. Daniel Amen: What happened?
Josh Perry: So we had a contest back then called Dew Tour. That's another story. But they built a course on the beach in Ocean City and then little over a year... And like Dave Mirra said, you do the homework, the test is easy. I was doing the homework, I was practicing day training, started learning about nutrition, drinking more water, less sugar, less alcohol, things like that. And I was just... It was just practice. And I was going around one of the lines and the ramps to get the feel for the route I wanted to take during my contest run and I came up short on this ramp. It was a six foot ramp and I was about, I think like eight feet above that and my back tire tagged and I went straight over the bars to my face, the left side of my face on flat bottom. So I was about eight feet where my bike hit, fell on top of it straight to the ground and my friends and the medics on the sidelines were watching. So they heard me snoring as soon as I hit it. It was actually on like preliminary ramps of the course. They said I hit so hard I was snoring instantly. The medics rolled me over when they got to me and they said my heart stopped for about 30-45 seconds and I actually woke up in the ambulance throwing up and I just was so confused and was in so much pain and I have like a huge lump down my right hand and my knuckle was broken. I just was like, "What happened?" You know, throwing up. So that was about 14 months after brain surgery.
Tana Amen: Oh God.
Dr. Daniel Amen: There are so many pieces to that story people wouldn't understand are important. Like brain surgery all by itself has general anesthesia. People have general anesthesia. So children who have general anesthesia have a higher incidents of learning problems. Adults who have it have a higher incidence of dementia. There's controversy about that. There's studies for and against, but general anesthesia is generally not good for your brain. So we have trauma, we have the tumor, general anesthesia, and then your heart stops and any form of anoxia where you don't get oxygen to your brain because your heart stops, can damage your brain.
Tana Amen: So you've got multiple insults.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And your scans show it. But the exciting thing that I want people to really get is when you get serious about brain health that you can very often make it better. But then when did the tumor come back?
Josh Perry: So that was July, 2011. It was September 2012 on just one of the yearly MRIs showed a small, blueberry sized mass in the front in the rear of the same area that the original tumor was located. And Dr. Friedman said it was due to the complications that once they got in the tumor was wrapped around the optic nerve and an artery. And so it was actually a six hour surgery and was supposed to be four. And I remember meeting him five years later again, and he just didn't miss a beat. He remembered everything and he said it was because of that. So that's when the two regrowths came back was 2012.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Okay. So let's just pause for a minute and talk about the impact to society of traumatic brain injury. One of the things that shocked me. So I'm an army trained psychiatrist. I trained at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. And when I trained in 1982 we had a lot of Vietnam veterans. And so we actually had talked about traumatic brain injury and the impact it could have on your mental health. But I had no idea that literally 40% of the patients that come to Amen clinics about a significant traumatic brain injury at some point in their past. It is a major cause of psychiatric illness and nobody knows about it. It's a major cause of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, ADHD, school failure, drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, incarceration. When you damage the brain, and I think most people believe your brain is involved in everything you do, how you think and feel and act, how well Tan and I get all get along ... your brain is involved in everything. If you hurt it, it's going to hurt your ability to be your best self.
Tana Amen: And you seem pretty healthy and you seem ... haven't been there through the whole healing process obviously. I'm sure there were a lot of ups and downs, but you seem like you've taken a very proactive approach to getting well. I've heard you mentioned several things and you seem very, and being purposeful as a big part of it. And as we mentioned before, you mentioned the falling piece, you know, falling is just part of it and you get back up. And I wanted to touch on that before. We talk about that in martial arts a lot. And for women that's a hard thing. We want to be perfectionists and in BMX maybe you do too, but you can't be. So falling is just an important part of learning strategy. It's like built in. You fall, it's not considered failure. It's like, oh, it's just, you only fail if you don't get back up. And that was such a huge awakening for me. It was like, Oh, you're supposed to fall. You're just supposed to learn how to get up safely and quickly. Right. And move on. And you learn from it. And that was huge. That was a huge metaphor for me for life. And it was really important.
Josh Perry: Yeah, for sure. And I mean, you said a bunch of things and they come to mind. I remember, when I first heard Dr. Amen speak at IN it was Brain MD. And so I remember being on that path and it started with watching your documentary that led me here on YouTube and Google and all over the place and then I found [inaudible 00:06:55] just before I [inaudible 00:06:58] And I was like, man I started making massive shifts. Dr. Amen's work and then Mark Sisson spoken there and then Dr. Mark Hyman and I was like all this stuff makes sense. So I was just like, let's be proactive.
I was still in a fearful state and learning a little learning a little bit about epigenetics and you know, the ability we have to make changes with our health and it lets us keep doing this. But then as I've gone on, I've learned about mindset being my favorite thing to talk about. And really just perspective and context and the central [inaudible 00:07:25] that's one of my biggest beliefs and my perspective was altered by the first brain tumor and then it's obviously shifted a lot since then. It's progressed. You mentioned purpose. And a friend of mine told me a story. He was at a job one day before he started his business and [inaudible 00:07:42] "Hey Isaac are you on self or are you on purpose today?"
Tana Amen: Oh I love that.
Josh Perry: I have a bracelet that says, "off self, on purpose." And the third diagnosis three years ago it was one of those wake up calls. I was like, there was no feeling sorry. There is no feeling anything. Of course it was a little bit of frustration but it was literally like what can I do to benefit from this experience and how can I help people? And that's when I stopped competing, in 2017. Cause I was like, man, like our sports not that big. It feels like NBA have a bigger reach. But no one cares if I go compete or not. They just care what I represent and let's take all that energy, time and focus and put it on purpose to serve as support and let's create more abundance for everyone. And that's just where my mindset is now. It's like, what can I do to bring value? Instead of hearing people like, how can I learn this? Or how can you help me? It's like, "how can I help you?" And doing so it's just a byproduct that you know, more opportunity comes to the marketing to help people. And then just, it's really fascinating how that your worlds shifts.
Tana Amen: Yeah. That's actually fantastic. I love that. Are you on self or are you on purpose? That's fantastic. I really like that. One thing I do when something's going really badly and I've had to train myself, it didn't come naturally. I'm trained myself to do when something's really bad or I'm really nervous. And I love this because what you're describing is what we call the warrior mindset. You have a warrior mindset, not a warrior, but a warrior mindset. And that's really great. What I like to do is I ask myself a series of questions. The minute something's going wrong I built it in just like I built in the ICU trauma nurse training.
It's what can I learn from this? What can I be happy about? What can I be grateful about and what can I be purposeful with, right? So when something's really going bad, if you can instantly do that, it just instantly shifts your mindset to, "Oh my God, I can't believe this is happening to me," to, "What can I be grateful for? What can I learn? How can I be purposeful?" And it's like it just instantly puts you in that warrior proactive state of mind. So it's a really important thing, but it takes training. If the training is hard, the battle is easy, right?
Dr. Daniel Amen: So when we come back ... so we've talked a little bit about Josh's story. We've talked about the impact of traumatic brain injury. Now, what I want to do in the next two podcasts is talk about, well, what are the big lessons you've learned? What is it that you really want to share with the audience and what questions might you have for us after you've gone through the evaluation process?
I also want to hear when you saw your scan, what that was like. Stay with us.
Tana Amen: If you're enjoying The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast, please don't forget to subscribe so you'll always know when there's a new episode. And while you're at it, feel free to give us a review or five star rating as that helps others find the podcast.
Dr. Daniel Amen: If you're considering coming Amen clinics or trying some of the brain healthy supplements from brain MD, you can use the code podcast10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation or a 10% discount on all supplements at For more information, give us a call at 855-978-1363.