‘Jeopardy! Contestant Defies the Odds After Traumatic Brain Injury To Appear on Show

by Jennifer Shea

Contestant Andrew Kleinschmidt, a PhD student from La Jolla, California, beat the odds and came back from a traumatic brain injury to appear on “Jeopardy!” just two weeks after his accident.

But for awhile there, things were looking dicey for the recent “Jeopardy!” contestant. As he explained to guest host LeVar Burton on the show, Kleinschmidt suffered the traumatic brain injury while skiing.

“I’m feeling fine now,” Kleinschmidt said. “So I went skiing – highly recommend. I got a severe traumatic brain injury – wouldn’t personally recommend. And my family wasn’t sure whether I would walk again, whether I would talk normally again.”

“And now, here I am, two months later, on ‘Jeopardy!’,” Kleinschmidt added. “It’s crazy – and it’s a testament to all of the work of the doctors and nurses and especially therapists that I’m here.”   

Watch the “Jeopardy!” contestant explain what happened to him here:

Traumatic Brain Injuries Are Serious Business

While a mild traumatic brain injury may only affect brain cells temporarily, more serious cases can lead to long-term complications or death. Unfortunately, some symptoms of traumatic brain injury can take weeks to show up.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the causes of traumatic brain injury range from a blow to the head or body to the impact of a bullet or a shattered piece of skull.

Even mild cases of traumatic brain injury can bring trouble with speech, dizziness or loss of balance, vomiting, blurred vision, changes in the sense of smell, a bad taste in one’s mouth, sensitivity to light or sound, disorientation, mood swings and abnormal sleep patterns.

‘Jeopardy!’ Is Searching for a Permanent Host

Ever since legendary “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek died of pancreatic cancer on Nov. 8, 2020, the show has been searching for someone to replace him. But in the meantime, “Jeopardy!” has enjoyed a string of celebrity guest hosts.

The first interim guest host was former “Jeopardy!” champ Ken Jennings. He was followed by “Jeopardy!” executive producer Mike Richards. Next was former “Today” show co-host Katie Couric. After her was “Doctor Oz Show” host Dr. Mehmet Oz. Then it was Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’s turn.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper was next. Following him was “60 Minutes” correspondent Bill Whitaker. Then came former “Jeopardy!” All-Star team captain Buzzy Cohen. After him was actress and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik. Up after her was “Today” show co-host Savannah Guthrie. Next was CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta. After him was “GMA” and “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos. Following him was “GMA” co-host Robin Roberts.

The current guest host is former “Reading Rainbow” host LeVar Burton. Next up is CNBC “Squawk on the Street” co-host David Faber. Fox sportscaster Joe Buck will likely be the final guest host, unless network executives have trouble deciding on a permanent host and need more time.

Richards told the Wall Street Journal podcast “The Journal” that Sony executives will ultimately make the decision on Trebek’s replacement. They are reportedly basing it on “analytics and real testing,” and are watching the feed, the tapings and audience reaction to the guest hosts.

Several of the latter have expressed an interest in the permanent hosting gig. But many of the celebrities have less demanding, more lucrative day jobs to return to after enjoying a few rounds of the game show.