Jess Blewitt Sustained a Broken Femur and Fractured Vertebrae in her Snowshoe Race Run Crash

Sep 27, 2021
by James Smurthwaite  
Spare a thought for rising star Jess Blewitt having such an awful crash at the last race after a brilliant season.

Jess Blewitt has shared that she suffered a broken femur and clavicle as well as fractures to a rib, her right wrist and her L1 and L3 vertebrae during her Snowshoe finals crash.

Blewitt qualified ninth for the second women's race in West Virginia and was set to take the hotseat in her race run but crashed on the triple in the bottom woods. The crash resulted in a long course hold as Jess was evacuated from the track and taken to the hospital. After a week of radio silence, she has posted on social media over the weekend to give an update on her injuries. Unfortunately, it sounds like she's going to be sidelined for a while but it seems she's motivated to come back strong as soon as possible.

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bigquotesUnfortunately I hit the ground pretty hard during a nasty crash in my final race run at Snowshoe. Wasn’t how I wanted to end my season... I sustained a broken femur and clavicle which both required surgery as well as fractures to 1 rib my right wrist and L1 and L3 which are all stable. It’s going to be a long process but I’ll be back stronger than ever! A huge thank you to Steve Spencer for all your support and help being here with me in the hospital and everyone else who either helped or sent me kind messages. Hopefully will be home to New Zealand soon for a full recovery with Remarkable PhysiosJess Blewitt

We're sending healing vibes to Jess and hope to see her back on the bike and ripping soon.


85 Comments

  • 315 3
 You could tell watching that it was a life altering crash. Sometimes lines like "you'll come back stronger than ever in no time!" feel like they downplay the incredible physical, emotional, and often financial hardships that go into a recovery like this. Sometimes it feels like the mountain bike community celebrates speedy recovery too much. Jess, I hope you take the time to get strong again, and if racing at an elite level again is what you want, I hope you crush it. If it feels like it's not worth the risk, we would all understand. Regardless, you're a warrior and the road ahead will get easier with time.
  • 27 1
 I avoid saying quick/fast/speedy recovery and say recover well/fully and so on. Much more important to not rush and focus on the best recovery possible.
  • 30 0
 Couldn't agree more; hopefully she doesn't put the pressure on herself.

Plot twist, we all know a Kiwi lad that broke his back, had to learn to walk again and is racing world cups again.
  • 5 0
 @Waldon83: but that guy is a bulldog, hes made for massacres
  • 58 0
 That crash was so savage it made me jump out of my chair. I knew it would be bad but that's a mighty list of injuries to deal with. It's gonna suck but don't rush it, you'll see a tiny bit of progress every day.
  • 18 0
 Same - was sick to my stomach rest of the day and knew it was bad with the radio silence. Just gutted seeing anyone but even worse with a young kid with so much promise. All I could imagine was seeing my daughter wreck like that. I'd be a mental case. You need your family and besties more than ever now Jess - don't be afraid to lean on them an ask for help - you would be there for them.
  • 6 0
 It made me let loose with an involuntary half yell, half gasp that was so loud my wife came running from the other room. Such a brutal crash. I'm so glad she didn't do any spinal cord damage! Take your time and heal well!
  • 2 0
 Ya that was about the worst orb I have seen in awhile. Knew it was real bad for the 25 minute course hold.
  • 43 0
 Heal up soon Jess!
  • 19 2
 I know the announcers are told to keep things light and positive but this was a brutal crash and in the live feed you can hear her screaming. Radio silence is never a good sign. Just wish they would have updated sooner.
  • 3 0
 right! we were in the woods below wild zone and wondering what the hold was. hearing her cries on redbull after was sickening.
  • 18 1
 That was scary as hell to watch. You just knew it wasn't going to be good when she landed. As terrible as her injuries are, I'm glad she'll be okay. Heal up Jess.
  • 16 0
 It happened about 100yds from my wife and me and while I didn't see or even hear the crash, the sounds after it are still stuck in my head. Heal up girl! I'm rooting for you!!
  • 7 1
 Yeah, I was standing right next to where she landed. It was brutal
  • 15 0
 Kia kaha Jess.
  • 18 11
 To everyone finding some flaw in this to do with the people, announcers, RedBull, etc...grow up. Stop blaming and complaining about something. A girl got badly hurt. She chose when she wanted to give an update on her own terms. Wish her well. Inspire her. But the garbage whining complaints about how others could have made this bad accident a better world are a waste. Focus on her. Focus on healing. Stop trying to instigate. Stop finding flaw in others. Move Forward.
  • 6 0
 As someone also currently recovering from a broken back all I can say is good luck with the recovery. The psychological lows and recovery plateaus suck, but I hope you can find the strength within you and from your friends and family to carry on, push through, and I hope to see you racing again soon!
  • 9 0
 Get well soon, stay strong
  • 7 0
 Sending healing vibes her way. That was a gross looking crash and was obvious it was a nasty one with how long the next riders had to wait.
  • 8 0
 All the best Jess! You will be back stronger, take your time!
  • 9 1
 Heinous injury. Hard AF
  • 7 1
 that was such a fucking gnarly crash, really horrible to watch! Heal up quick Jess!
  • 3 0
 I am not easily rattled but watching her crash I stopped the broadcast and took a break.... then started searching the net to see if she was ok and not in a coma. Sending healing vybz and strength for the future. Jess you have a cycling family behind you.
  • 6 0
 Heal up Gal! You were on a burner until that triple jump bit ya!
  • 3 0
 Does anyone know what happens when a foreigner from a country with universal healthcare gets hurt in the US? Do they just get all the bills? Is there a policy from their home country to help cover the costs?
  • 14 0
 I would imagine (or hope at least) that anyone doing this professionally has some form of extra insurance to cover any costs incurred in other countries...
  • 12 0
 @O1D4: especially if you are going to be participating in an event in a country with a totally bizarre healthcare system like the US.
  • 6 0
 I know I buy trip insurance when I enter the US, it's pretty cheap tbh and worth it if anything happens. On a riding trip you just need to make sure it covers sports or racing which usually costs slightly more. better than a 10k+ hospital bill though.
  • 6 0
 @TheBrosCloset: Only problem with that travel insurance policy is it specifically WILL NOT cover racing or work related injury, which is both for UCI athletes.

A few years ago, a company out of Canada was one of a few North American companies that provide coverage for race competitors. It's expensive. But it should be in every international race teams budget if you're going to send riders abroad.

No racers have ever made it known what coverage they have. I'd love to accumulate the data and put it into an article though.
  • 1 1
 @captain23 would know more than anyone else what types of policies may be available to racers traveling abroad but he may not want to broach the subject in a public forum.
  • 4 0
 @bryannn: They just get all the bills. For an Australian (we have universal healthcare) there is no assistance in the USA from our government.

Australia and England have reciprocal universal health arrangements with New Zealand. Australia has the same with those countries and a few more that have universal health care (such as Italy, Finland, Norway Slovenia - known in the USA as 'Commies'). None of those are the USA, whose medical bills are incredibly high (it was one of the reasons myself, and others I know who had the choice, chose not to live there any more).

Experienced travellers don't go to the USA without mega health insurance. If I recall correctly we were not allowed visas (visiting PhD and partner) until we could prove we had insurance. To compete in the USA you need a visa for athletes which I'm sure also requires health insurance.
  • 3 1
 @iamamodel: There was a Canadian Rampage rider hurt several years back with major US medical bills that had an insurance plan when he rode Rampage, but it specifically excluded competition, so he incurred tons.

It was quite the massive article with loads of debate about universal healthcare. I'd almost rather find that article and link it than see people go down this rabbit hole again. Beer
  • 2 0
 the UCI provides a very minimal level of insurance. I just looked and its about $25k (with 1-5k deductible). That may cover some until she can get home for full care.

Also, there is the option of just never coming back to the USA and telling the providers with the giant bills to pound sand, although that is not a real solution.
  • 1 0
 Spaniard here. It depends on the agreement that the origin country has with the US (in case of Spain, none), so one gets all the bills like an american would do.

Enter sports federations: when you are registered and pay the yearly fee with your regional federation for any sport (mtb, climbing, ski, etc) you can enter sanctioned competitions and you have an insurance that covers both national territory and foreign countries (coverage has levels and limits too, $). Note they cover only said activities, not common illness or accident.

A regular tourist may or may not have a private travel insurance, but if willing to do something risky, you better have one (though travel insurances often explicitly leave out stuff like mtb) or the federative license of the sport you're gonna do.

For example, the priciest mountaineering and climbing license to get you covered worldwide in activities done up to 7k meters is around € 200/ year.

I assume everyone racing overseas has his national license regiatration and subsequent insurance
  • 2 0
 @iiman: In Australia it has been the case for ages that to race overseas requires an international UCI licence. To get the licence you have to submit proof of insurance that meets certain minimums (also offered through the insurer that the federation here uses for our domestic racing insurance policy too if you can't find your own).
No insurance = no licence.
No licence = no racing.

So, in theory, everyone should be adequately covered.
Also, the cheapest solution for the insurance company is to ship them home (at least outside of a pandemic); bandage them up and ship them back to Australia and then the local health system can care for them (and the insurance doesn't have to pay much more than the flight). While that didn't always seem like the best solution for the injured cyclist, you can understand why the insurer wants to do that.
  • 1 0
 @R26: Similar: I've been told that if you crash bad at Les Gets, Morzine etc. you go through Mont Blanc tunnel and say you crashed in Courmeyer, Italy.
  • 1 1
 Good point about the racing license. I had to use my USA Cycling domestic license as primary insurance when I blew my ACL at a National. Didn't think about that policy extending internationally if I raced UCI and vice versa for other countries.

That's probably one more issue for the Canadian at Rampage. Obviously the Canadian Cycling federation's race coverage & licensing wouldn't be required for a freeride comp.

Last, flying an injured rider back to avoid mounting out of country medical charges isn't plausible due to the potential complications from major internal injuries
  • 2 0
 I've had friends visit from several foreign countries, all with some form of universal care, and none of their home health programs provided any support/subsidy for coverage in the USA. They all had to acquire some form of travel coverage.
Hopefully Jess and/or her sponsor(s) had good insurance. If not, the bill could be extraordinary. In the absence of negotiated rates, the surgeries she mentioned could easily exceed $100k in the U.S.
As an American, I broke a femur in Canada, spent two days in the hospital, and that alone was CA$40k. Can only imagine how much higher that would be in the U.S. for an uninsured foreigner.
  • 1 0
 @R26: exactly right on all accounts. I lived in Vancouver for 3 years and had a mate break his neck in a snowboarding accident. He spent a week in hospital there before being flown home to Melbourne on a medivac flight. Him, his girlfriend and a team of doctors. Bill was CAN$250000. All covered by insurance. Was a carpenter, now a quadriplegic. Once he was back home, good old Medicare paid the bills.
  • 2 0
 Im not sure, but to me would be pretty bad to not have private health insurance, especially in the US. I know i wish our Govt would make it mandatory for overseas travellers to have to have health insurance, as the cost to our healthcare is too much,but oh well
  • 3 0
 @mtb-thetown: 25k , well in America that probably covers the ambulance, couple of plasters and 2-3 nights in hospital : ), let alone MRI, cat scan xray, ect ect
  • 1 0
 @iamamodel: funny as
  • 2 0
 I broke a femur. Dynamic hip bolt and a plate with six screws, still hurts with bone pain four years later. But I’m 56 with more yesterdays than tomorrows so Jess is going to make a brilliant and fast recovery. Treat it as a project Jess, sending you positive vibes.
  • 5 0
 Yeah that crash was heavy. Heal up!
  • 5 0
 That was brutal to watch, trust the processes and heal up Jess!
  • 3 0
 Get well and hope you get back to form! That crash was ghastly, it takes true determination and love for the sport to bounce back. Good luck
  • 1 0
 That was at the point of the track where I watched the rest of the race. Was up at the flat road crossing above it when that happened.
That was my favorite section because of the sheer speed coming into it! Had to be over 40mph.
I can’t believe she’s still alive. She effectively did a head plant into the uphill face of the next whoop…
There was a guy lower down the order that crashed on the next whoop down in the final. Don’t know why that was missed. That dude rag dolled for about 40 feet. He got up, but there are varying definitions of “okay”.
  • 1 0
 PB posted earlier about "Things we learned from Snowshoe". You always wonder behind the improvements in equipment and, presumably, rider speed (and the sheer number of riders at the elite level who are riding at those speeds) whether there is a commensurate increase in the rate and magnitude of injuries. This supposedly occurred in elite snow sports, with the increase in size of the half pipe, training methods, and other improvements leading to greater risk and injury.

I do not necessarily sense that is occurring in elite MTB racing, and I also think we are very far along the diminishing returns curve of technological improvement, so I don't sense equipment gains are driving up risk for athletes at this point (the tree will always be an immovable object). Food for thought.
  • 3 1
 At some point there's diminishing return to making the events more and more technical and always faster and harder... The equipment and riders just won't be able to keep up forever! I understand they're trying to please the crowd and it's a dick sizing contest to see who will build the most hardcore trail, but f*cking hell, do we need to wait until some professionals decide to boycott the events or die before things calm down (Whistler Olympics anyone?)
  • 4 0
 @MatLax00: there is something to be said for more technical sections in downhill being safer since the tech makes you slow down, and if you are going slower you are less likely to have a catastrophic injury. Going down at 20mph in rock garden may suck, but it's generally better than going down at 40mph in a faster section like this.
  • 6 2
 I actually quite racing elite level DH in the late 90s/early 2000s when road gaps and big super committing features became obligatory, because I just didn't have it in me to risk my life. Prior to that DH was more similar to the downhill portions of an XC track, though there was plenty of relatively low speed tech (ie the old Deer Valley NCS trail) and while you could certainly get hurt, I don't think you could have had a crash like this young lady did.

The bikes were a lot less capable too, of course.

That said, I get that people like to see speed and airtime. Hell, I like to see that stuff. I'm always impressed that nobody has died (to my knowledge) hitting a tree at 30+ mph/still in the air so maybe I'm just an old sissy hypocrite.

-W
  • 2 0
 I’ve broken similar stuff but never all at once and there’s zero racing from my body after. These racers must be made partially from rubber and gorilla glue or something
  • 1 0
 Woke the family up when that crash happened, couldn't help but yell out loud. Brutal. Heal up ! And Pinkbike add her to the fantasy league next season ! ! ! She's young she will be back with more metal implants than before.
  • 1 1
 Does anybody know how her medical bills were handled in the US? Do all international racers need to be insured to race the WC? and how good is their cover? I’m pretty sure Jess is a privateer with some help from GT so I’d hate to know her medical bill.
  • 2 0
 You were flying and looking so stylish on course. Wishing you all the best in your recovery and can't wait to see you racing again.
  • 1 0
 You're an awesome rider Jess, it was upsetting to see such unlucky crash. Seems like you always proper send it in your insta videos which is well inspiring, looking forward to seeing you back on the circuit in full strength.
  • 3 0
 Glad she's well enough to report. Dang. Also VERY glad there was room in the hospital for her in WV.
  • 5 3
 Glad she's alive. I thought she might of been ded the way she crashed and how they didn't talk about it
  • 3 0
 Much love to you Jess, heal up and hammer down
  • 1 0
 I was there, and saw it happen in person, as I hobbled around on crutches having fractured my L1 and T12 just three days before from a road bike injury!
  • 2 0
 Hope her age helps with recovery, but it's gonna be a long winter of difficult work. Healing vibes your way Jess
  • 2 0
 Wowza ! Heal up good, long and strong !!! Smile
  • 1 0
 Such a savage crash. Heal up well Jess. Looking forward to watching you in the live feed again soon! \m/
  • 3 5
 Oh mannn Jess really blew it (sorry, had to do it).

Jokes aside, it was a horrible crash. I was thinking, as she was coming to that lower jump section, she will nail it, she is so good at jumps. Just show how much on the limit these guys are. Amazing athletes.

All the best with the recovery, looking forward to seeing her send some huuuge jumps in the future!
  • 2 0
 Get well sooN!
  • 1 0
 Healing vibes and prayers your way!!
  • 1 0
 Best of luck with your recovery Jess.
  • 1 0
 Yikes! Get well friend!
  • 1 0
 Heal up soon!
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