They called it “sled head.” It was just something they had to accept, like cold weather, or sore muscles.
Now, in retirement, many of these athletes continue to struggle with many of those same symptoms, as well as forgetfulness, depression and mental illness.
Former top competitors like Hollingsworth, who finished fifth in skeleton at the Vancouver Games, Pascal Richard, also of Canada, and Katie Uhlaender, a four-time Olympian from the United States who wants to make one last Olympic team, wonder whether those symptoms are connected to their dramatic crashes and the brain-rattling runs.
They have watched teammates descend into depression and die by suicide. Since 2013, three former elite North American bobsledders have taken their lives. Another attempted it, and two others died of overdoses, a remarkable number given that just a few hundred athletes participate seriously in sliding sports at any level at once.