From Olympic Hopeful to TBI: Lesley LeMasurier's Story

[Interviewer] Joining us now, Lesley LeMasurier is one of Dr. Kelly's patients. By 18 years old she had already experienced 4 concussions. One was the result of a car accident. The others were caused her sport of choice, alpine ski racing. Lesley, how did you get started in skiing? [Lesley LeMasurier] Well actually, my whole family learned to ski about the same time; I was about 6 years old. And it was just something different that we wanted to try, and we all enjoyed it, and we started skiing fulltime at Wintergreen Resort down in Virginia. [Interviewer] And so what did you like about it? [Lesley LeMasurier] I just liked that it was different and challenging and fast-- it was all around very fun, and I just really enjoyed it. [Interviewer] Now to those of us who aren't skiers, ski racing seems so out of control. I mean was fear a part of the process for you? [Lesley LeMasurier] Not when I was younger. When I was a little kid it was just so much fun, and I loved it. And as I got older and started crashing more and more often, there was a little fear involved. But for the most part, as a kid I just loved doing it. [Interviewer] So how did you feel about the crashing part in the early days? [Lesley LeMasurier] It was just part of the sport really. It was just something that came along with the sport-- you're going to fall if you're going to go at high speeds-- so I wasn't too scared of it. It just--when I started injuring myself, that's when there was a little more fear involved. [Interviewer] Now tell us about your very 1st concussion. [Lesley LeMasurier] My 1st concussion actually was in preseason training. We played soccer a lot, and it actually came about during a soccer game. I took a knee to the side of the head--it was a mild concussion. I didn't lose consciousness, but I was very dazed and confused, and I just had a headache. So I was out for about a week--out of training. [Interviewer] So any other lasting effects from that one? [Lesley LeMasurier] Not really--I mean I had a headache, but they all sort of went away, and I went back to training. [Interviewer] Okay now you experienced 2 more concussions. What were doctors telling you and your parents? [Lesley LeMasurier] Not a whole lot, actually. My parents new nothing about the brain or brain injury, and they were actually in Virginia--I was in Vermont going to school at the time. So they were kind of at a distance, and doctors just said--you know-- be careful and-- [Interviewer] That was it. [Lesley LeMasurier] It wasn't--you know--skiing isn't a careful sport. [Interviewer] Right. Tell us, if you would, about the crash that you experienced when you were training with the U.S. Ski Team. [Lesley LeMasurier] It was a fairly major crash. I had actually been dealing with symptoms for about 2 years-- I had migraines and was having a hard time sleeping and trouble focusing. Basically I just crashed so much I actually had a broken leg and some torn ligaments-- my other leg--at that time when I entered the race, but I was just pressured to basically compete and perform. And I lost--I was unsteady on my left side and lost my balance and tore through 3 safety nets and barreled into the woods, and when I stood up, my helmet was in 2 pieces at my side. [Interviewer] My stars. Now you said you felt pressure. You felt a lot of pressure from your teammates? Pressure from yourself? [Lesley LeMasurier] All around. I mean there was pressure from every angle really-- from coaches, teammates, family members-- [Interviewer] Did you tell them that you weren't feeling well? [Lesley LeMasurier] It was actually something I sort of protected. I was a little bit in denial about the way that I was feeling. And it--you don't want to everyday say that you feel sick because you're going to start sounding like you're a complainer or making it up--so I just kind of protected--you know how bad I was actually feeling. [Interviewer] And what was going on in your mind during all this time? [Lesley LeMasurier] That's when the fear started to really creep in, I think. Because I couldn't explain--you know what I was feeling to myself. I just--I had migraines, my heart rate was very high, and I was having trouble seeing, and my eyes hurt-- couldn't read without getting a migraine. [Interviewer] Now you said your heart rate was high. How did that manifest itself? [Lesley LeMasurier] Well, during training we would train with heart rate monitors on-- when we were--you know--running or any type of workout on land. We would wear heart rate monitors and workout in zones, and I basically couldn't stay in the zone. I just was so much higher than all my teammates and was not recovering. [Interviewer] Now let me ask you this. You wear a heart monitor to check your heart. If the rate of your heartbeat goes up high, that's a problem, right? [Lesley LeMasurier] Right. [Interviewer] And did anybody else know that? [Lesley LeMasurier] It was discussed, but they just thought because of the other injuries that maybe I was out of shape. [Interviewer] You were out of shape? [Lesley LeMasurier] [nods and shrugs]. [Interviewer] Okay. I'm going to move on past that one. [laughing] I think you said about--no blood, no break, keep going. And that's what you did? [Lesley LeMasurier] Right. When the pressure's on--I mean just basically there's no blood, no break, I'm going to keep going--period. That's what athletes do--they push through adversity and push through the pain and just try to perform. [Interviewer] And that's what you did? [Lesley LeMasurier] Correct. [Interviewer] Did you win? [Lesley LeMasurier] I didn't. [Interviewer] Okay. [Lesley LeMasurier] I ended in MRI scans and was in the hospital, basically.

When her concussions started to affect her on and off the ski slopes, competitive alpine ski racer Lesley LeMasurier knew something was significantly wrong.

Posted on BrainLine May 27, 2011.