From Olympic Hopeful to TBI: Lesley LeMasurier's Story

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

[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.
Posted on BrainLine May 27, 2011.