How Leah Pruett’s Health Battles Are Faring

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How Leah Pruett’s Health Battles Are FaringIcon Sportswire - Getty Images
  • Over three years ago, Leah Pruett started noticing something was off with her health, which drove her to seek out help from doctors.

  • It took several months and many specialists before Pruett got a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s disease, which affects the thyroid.

  • Now in a place where she feels more in control of her health, Pruett is turning her attention to advocating on behalf of female drivers who get pregnant during the racing season.

Drag racing had been Leah Pruett’s sole focus ever since she was 8 years old when she began competing in Junior Dragsters, but in late 2020 or early 2021, she noticed for the first time that things were amiss with her health.


“I was losing a lot of hair. I was constantly cold. I was having a very hard time compartmentalizing and controlling my emotions, which is not something I’ve ever had an issue with,” Pruett said.

Pruett and now husband Tony Stewart had just started dating when she began noticing her health issues. The couple had bloodwork done after having COVID, and Pruett’s thyroid peroxidase (TPO) was “wildly off the chart.”

Eventually, Pruett was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease found in 15% to 20% of adult women.

“Who knows the percent of women who don’t know that they have it,” Pruett said. “They just think life is changing, life is getting older and tougher, and there could be a real medical reason behind it. I wanted to put this out there and maybe help some other women or some families.”

When a person has Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, their body reacts as though the thyroid is a foreign object, attacks it, and tries to kill it.

“It creates antibodies towards your thyroid like it was a virus or disease or anything else that’s foreign. It inhibits your body from making proper hormones that we all need,” Pruett explained.

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It took several doctors any many months to finally get a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s disease for Pruett.Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

Four to five months and multiple doctors were needed to determine the proper medication for Pruett. One of the medications doctors tried that didn’t work relegated her to a couch for five days, a behavior totally opposite of Pruett’s energetic personality.

“I was driving like five-hour round trips for an endocrinologist,” Pruett said. “It was eating a lot of my time, but it was very important to me for my relationships and then also for racing.”

The Indiana resident has now found an endocrinologist that works with her to where she feels she’s being treated properly.

“My levels have been good now for about seven months,” Pruett said Friday. “I can feel it in my body. The reason your emotional structure gets unbalanced is because you don’t have the hormones to have the balance in your brain. There was an extreme lack of concentration, which is very frustrating, lack of ambition and lack of energy.”

The 35-year-old Pruett doesn’t believe she’s had the autoimmune disease her entire life, nor does she think it’s a side effect of COVID. Instead, she believes it’s the result of how she lived while in high school and college.

“I was the no-sleep person, get as much done during the day and the night, so much pride in the work ethic, living off of energy drinks,” Pruett said.

“There’s one particular (energy drink) that I drank for probably 10 years straight, and sometimes that would be all that I would do. I was focused on my weight, focused on my energy. I really think that caused long-term effects.”

Pruett stepped out of the driver’s seat this year to focus on starting a family, and that has brought another issue to her attention. She would like the NHRA to create a pregnancy policy or protocol for when a female driver becomes pregnant during the season.

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Pruett stepped out of the driver’s seat in part to focus on starting a family.Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

The policy would mean the driver could step out of the car if she became pregnant without affecting the team’s points. Currently, if a pregnant driver steps out of a car, the team loses its points, and its chance at a championship.

“It’s just not a healthy situation,” Pruett said. “So why not create something … that helps these women stay in the sport and also opens up an opportunity for women that are looking to elevate themselves inside the sport know that there is an equal opportunity to an injury protocol or a COVID protocol. There’s something for everything except for if you get pregnant.

“There’s a lot of legalities and doctoral research that’s happening. So, hopefully, we come to a place of education and a consensus that will help the next generation of female racers.”