LA Psychologist With Brain Injury Defies the Odds to Compete in Ninja Warrior

December 6, 2020 Updated: December 6, 2020

A young man who was left bed-bound after suffering a brain injury in a boxing duel has defied the odds to compete in Ninja Warrior.

Chinna Balachandran, 31, was “unable to do anything for himself” for months when he sustained an acute subdural hematoma, a severe brain bleed, in January last year.

Doctors feared Chinna’s injuries would restrict his life forever. But the psychologist from Los Angeles, California, wowed medics by training again late last year and is now set to appear on hit TV show American Ninja Warrior.

Epoch Times Photo
Chinna Balachandran, 31, in a hospital, Los Angeles, Calif. (Caters News)

In a series of videos shot in 2020, a healthy Chinna is seen training in the gym, playing drums, and practicing boxing with a reflex ball.

“My injury was acute subdural hematoma, causing five-millimeter midline shift and cranial herniation,” Chinna said.

“My brain was bleeding and my brainstem was being compressed because of the pressure from the blood, so I was losing all of those essential brain functions, such as regulation of breathing, consciousness, and equilibrium.”

Chinna said that a surgeon decided to remove part of his skull to give his brain “room to swell and drain the blood.”

Epoch Times Photo
(Caters News)

Chinna said: “The mortality rate for acute subdural hematoma ranges from 50 percent to 90 percent, and if not death, then persistent vegetative state, paralysis or cognitive impairment are essentially guaranteed.”

“Doctors have told me since my recovery that normally when a patient has cranial herniation, it’s time to see another patient because that one isn’t going to make it,” he added.

Incredibly, Chinna said that he did not notice anything concerning while taking part in the sparring session during which he got injured, but only started feeling unwell when he got back home.

Epoch Times Photo
Chinna Balachandran, 31, with fiance Erica Wendel, Los Angeles, Calif. (Caters News)

Chinna said: “There was no loss of consciousness, no loss of equilibrium, nothing until about 90 minutes after the spar.

“Later, while I was showering, I noticed I was seeing dark circles out of both my eyes, I threw up once I got out of the shower, and that’s when I knew that I needed to go to the hospital.

“The recovery process was horrible, so many things were wrong, I couldn’t do anything for myself, I couldn’t stand unassisted, I couldn’t walk, I was only awake for one or two hours a day.

“I had dark moments where I wondered if I would ever have anything resembling my old life, but I also committed to getting better at just one thing each day, and not allowing myself to be discouraged.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be done recovering, but the absolute worst of things lasted about four months, which is shorter than what most people who live through this injury experience.”

Epoch Times Photo
(Caters News)

Chinna said that he made his application to American Ninja Warrior “just for fun,” before discovering the show had accepted him as a participant.

“Whenever I played ‘Two Truths and a Lie’ over the years, my lie was always that I competed on a season of American Ninja Warrior,” he said. “Just for fun, I made an application video where I told the story of my injury and ran around in a child-sized obstacle course.”

Chinna shared that the casting crew called him up because his “story is compelling.”

“[But they] asked me to re-submit an application video that showed a bit more athleticism,” he said.

“So, I made a new video where I climbed the ropes at the Original Muscle Beach in Santa Monica, and that was it!”

Watch Chinna in action in the video below:

Epoch Times staff contributed to this report.