“You can’t fall at 120 km/h … without hurting your brain”

After a minor car accident brought on a crippling response to Canadian Olympic downhill gold medalist, Kerrin Lee-Gartner, she knew the cumulative effect of head injuries during her life had caught up to her with dire consequences. The CBC spoke with Lee-Gartner about her experiences:

“It really opened my eyes to the depression side of it. I was borderline there, hiding within the walls of my home. I shut off socially. I said ‘no’ to going out because I couldn’t handle the noise and people and stimulus. Even walking down the street was hard for me.”

Lee-Gartner experienced migraines, vision problems and vertigo, which are not uncommon in athletes who have sustained multiple concussions but little is know about female athletes with post-concussion syndrome with nearly all the research focused on male brains. 

This is why she decided to donate her brain to science, becoming the first prominent female athlete women to donate her brain to the Canadian Concussion Centre.

Lee-Gartner can’t say how many concussions she sustained during her ski career because little was understood about the issue when she was racing:

“You can’t fall at 120 km/h … without hurting your brain. But they were never diagnosed, and at the time, the concern was more about knee reconstruction and how long until I got back on skis.”Research has shown that women suffer concussion at a higher rate than men and they take longer to recover. As with men the effects of concussion are now also understood to be cumulative, often resulting in increasingly severe symptoms with subsequent injuries.

Lee-Gartner only regret about donating her brain in the name of research is she won’t be around to see the results:

“I would really love to know what’s going on in there.”

Here is a short video about Kerrin’s inspiring story of winning gold at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France.

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