Rachel Atherton Out of Les Gets World Cup with Ruptured Achilles Tendon

Jul 11, 2019
by James Smurthwaite  

Rachel Atherton has just announced she will not be racing at the Les Gets World Cup after suffering a ruptured achilles tendon in training.

Rachel landed heavily on the flat drop towards the bottom of the course has confirmed she is already on her way home to get it checked out. Rachel has been flying this season with two wins on the new Atherton downhill bike as she chased down Anne Caroline Chausson's all-time record. She will no doubt be gutted she won't be able to try for another on the track she won on in Crankworx last year.

bigquotesDevastated to say that as I landed super heavy on the last flat jump I had a huge insanely painful ankle and felt so disgustingly strange.
Apparently I have ruptured my Achilles’ tendon... Absolutely Devastated. Not sure what’s going to happen but I’ll be going home tomorrow to get sorted out, just so gutted & upset. Sorry to everyone & thanks to everyone.
Rachel Atherton

We're wishing Rachel all the best in her recovery. There's no word on how long Rachel will be out for yet but we hope to see her back on the bike soon.

More follows.


159 Comments

  • + 131
 Oh my goodness that is probably the worst injury you could sustain Frown Poor Rachel, gutted for her. Healing vibes xx
  • + 25
 If it truly is ruptured, she'll be out for a while. Achilles injuries are no joke! Hopefully it is just a strain and she can be back sooner rather than later.
  • - 4
flag addatx (Jul 11, 2019 at 8:34) (Below Threshold)
 @SectionThirtyOne: Yep, 1.5+ years for sure.
  • + 164
 Im thinking an exploded head or having both arms ripped off and planted in your ass could possibly be worse injuries.... nonetheless healing vibes to her for a super speedy recovery. Smile
  • + 111
 @moodgedog: Thanks for that analysis Doctor
  • + 6
 @moodgedog: I started laughing so f*cking hard when I read your comment. Thank you. This just made my day.
  • + 34
 @addatx: study on NFL football players showed an average return to play of about 275 days, one as little as 166 days. Seeing as how she is not getting payed 2.5 million per year to sit at home on the couch, she is tougher than they are, and she has ample resources in the recovery process, I suspect she will be hammering next year at the first world cup.
  • + 16
 Im not sure why the downvotes. I mean really, given the options presented, I’d take the Achilles
  • + 9
 @SectionThirtyOne: I ruptured mine in Feb on the 8th, had surgery on the 11th and was back riding the trainer by late april, road by early may and have been biking on the MTB since early June. I was told 1yr of recovery and that sounds about right for the achillies to be 100%, but nothing will stop her from riding within 3 months with the right amount of rest.
  • + 3
 Second worst injury, a ruptured patellar tendon number one. Ripped mine clean off the knee cap years back and took over a year to get back to normal.
  • + 37
 TBI is worse than any injury with the possible exception of permanent paralysis. Tendons can be repaired, brains cannot. Let's be grateful she didn't smack her head.
  • + 2
 @in2falling: I'd say that yours is worse than an achillies for sure...
  • + 0
 @SectionThirtyOne: I suspect it’s a strain, otherwise they would be operating not casting (for immobility). No?
  • + 4
 @cwatt: No. Broken tendons and ligaments are often best operated weeks after the injury, once inflammation is under control. Inflamated tissue is very brittle. Of course there are exceptions to everything.
  • - 17
flag BangDalish (Jul 11, 2019 at 10:21) (Below Threshold)
 We just hope that Bill Cosby didn't take this pic
  • + 1
 @cwatt: Not necessarily. Its common practice to keep the joint immobilized and only operate once the swelling goes down. Sometimes they wait for the swelling to go down for imaging too (MRI).
  • + 6
 @cwatt: I can only speak for my experience, but with a ruptured achillies the faster they operate the sooner the patient is at a starting point for recovery. the longer the wait, the better the chance of the tendon retracting back up the leg complicating the surgery and requiring an incision higher up to thread the tendon down the leg.
  • + 3
 @adub78: can confirm. I ruptured mine playing baseball and it rolled a long way up. My incision goes from my heel up to just below my calf muscle. Brutal.
  • + 9
 @jdbrill: similar study of nba players found 85% were out of the league in 4 yrs. While I hope for her sake she makes a full recovery, she's not a rad dad "shredding the gnar", she's a world class athlete competing against completely healthy and younger world class athletes.
An interesting article for those who like the supremely nerdy things in life....
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28644678
Good luck and good health to Rachel
  • + 1
 @Cpolism: mine was operated on 2 days after it happened and my incision is a twisty 5 inches and well below my calf. recovery has been fast and other than scar tissue it's been a good one. they sometimes anchor the tendon with bolts at the heel. can mess up the nerve down there and cause heel issues. how long ago was yours and how has riding been?
  • + 1
 @in2falling: I suffered getting beaten by Tachel, Mannon and Seegeave in one race. Now that's the worst injury.

Healing vibes to Rachel, doesn't sound good.
  • + 1
 @in2falling: same twisted lower leg off skate skiing. patellar ligament moved off knee to side. PCL complete tear MCL complete tear. Self rescued. Unclipped ski from boot and moved leg back in line. Pushed patellar ligament back onto knee. Sat on my skis and pushed out in the track set.
  • + 2
 @gotohe11carolina: thats an interesting article. haven't read this one before. there is certainly a larger sample size than the article i referenced. I hope the differences they found in the NBA athletes in particular relate more to the size of the athlete and level of concentric and eccentric forces distributed through the achilles while jumping/landing. That being said, downhill MTB most certainly puts pretty significant loads on the tendon as well. time will tell I guess.
  • + 3
 I can speak from experience that an Achilles rupture is no joke. I had a complete tear of my Achilles back in 2017. It took 5 months for me to get back on the bike and let me tell you that's just the beginning. Muscles atrophy, balance is off and not to mention the mental side of it. "Will it tear again, what about my other ankle.?...."
Gutted for Rachel. I'm sure she will be back but it will take some time before she is back on form
  • + 3
 @cwatt: Probably also cast because she is at a ski resort and not at a major hospital.
  • + 0
 @addatx: 8 months tops
  • + 2
 @in2falling: what’s all this nonsense about worst and second worst? Perhaps you mean the worst you have had. Happily take ruptured Achilles or patella over a zillion others. Eg paraplegia, brain injury, penile amputation etc. etc.
  • + 2
 Ah daggon! I thought I was the only mountain biker ever to rupture their Achilles while riding! After a lot of PT, I was back on my road bike four months after going under the knife; skiing and MTB’ing at six months. Dosen’t really impact me much today, two years after he accident, but my calf on the injured side is still noticibly smaller... and the scar tissue around the repair is gnarly.

Best for a quick recovery, Rachel—you’ll be back and stronger than ever!!!
  • + 0
 @moodgedog: THOSE ARE IN THE BIG BOOK OF INJURY FINAL CHAPTER U READ IT OBVI
  • + 1
 Yozzers! 2019 is turning into a wreck-a-thon
  • + 1
 @kiwikiter: At least she doesn't have to worry about that last one
  • + 3
 @in2falling: You must be a youngin' I did mine on the other side (which is more common with old farts), Took me almost a year and more like 2 before I truly trusted it again. Hardest rehab of my life.
  • + 1
 @adub78: Same here. Full quad dettachment and they operated the next day. Heard of others where they wait a few weeks and they can never get the physiology back the same as before
  • + 1
 @jdbrill: Agreed. Being explosively fast and balanced on your feet like an NFL player isnt necessarily a required skill to be successful at DH and those guys all weight in at above 200+ lbs.
  • + 1
 @gotohe11carolina: my God! Statistics are aweful
CONCLUSION:
An Achilles tendon rupture is a devastating injury that prevents RTP for 30.6% of professional players. Athletes who do return play in fewer games, have less play time, and perform at a lower level than their preinjury status. However, these functional deficits are seen only at 1 year after surgery compared with matched controls, such that players who return to play can expect to perform at a level commensurate with uninjured controls 2 years postoperatively.
  • + 59
 Rachel is so rad she says she’s “sorry” to us for her injury! Rachel, there is nothing for you to be sorry about! We wish you the best! Get better and come back stronger!
  • - 33
flag danposs86 (Jul 11, 2019 at 9:30) (Below Threshold)
 Maybe sorry for peoples fantasy downhill team?
  • + 18
 @danposs86: fantasy teams can still be changed and I highly doubt she gives two shits about people's fantasy squad.
  • + 56
 Everybody was having trouble with that insane flat drop.
Except Bruni, They were all harshly bottoming and lots of the riders where not clearing it.
The track looks really fast but Les Gets f*cked again to do the things properly. You just have to see that giant piece of metal found during the trackwalk. As a french and almost a local, I can only say how much I'm not surprise..
  • - 6
flag yzedf (Jul 11, 2019 at 12:15) (Below Threshold)
 Watching the pro's POV footage from today and I'm baffled how that course is worthy of being a World Cup.
  • + 9
 @yzedf: you're gonna see World Cup pros blow clean off the side of the mountain on what you think is a "tame" course. Just cause you see grass doesn't make it easy to race. Someone will rise to the occasion, take a ridiculous chance and smoke the field on this and possibly flip the script for the year.

Don't complain...just let the race play out.
  • - 7
flag yzedf (Jul 11, 2019 at 14:25) (Below Threshold)
 @bizutch: flat and boring. All the grass sections will be cut in (ruts make decent berms), not any proper off camber. Hardly any rocks or roots. Sure I can't ride it at world cup pace, but I could ride it. Reminds me of Windham, which I have ridden.
  • + 3
 @yzedf: couldn't disagree more. I just watched the Vital video. Gnarly and scary & burly. Lot of people can ride down stuff...
  • + 4
 @yzedf: you must not be here... There are no ruts berms out in those high speed corners and many are off camber.
  • + 2
 @davetrumpore: man...you're so lucky. I wanna see that speed up close!
  • + 14
 Career-ender for many professional athletes in other sports (ie football, basketball), or at least they are never as good as before more times than not. That’s rough for Rach.
  • + 11
 Yep hopefully it's a strain (which is a minor rupture) rather than a fully torn achilles.

Downhill might be one area where an athlete could come back. Usually the issue is lost explosiveness, but that would seem less of an issue with downhill (esp. with foot placement relative to Achilles extension) than something like basketball. Rachel's so good that even if she were to lose a (subastantial) second on the pedal out of the gate, she can still be competitive for the win.
  • + 4
 @MarcusBrody: They generally don't cast up strains like that. But I hope you're right.
  • + 6
 @MarcusBrody: I fully torn my Achilles in November 2017, I was back on bike on enduro trails in September 2018. I almost shit myself when my heel dropped lower then the pedal on of the the landings, because I was scared that it will fail me again. It didn’t, but I realised that it’s in fact very easy to torn Achilles on demanding landings. Since then I wasn’t able to fight the fear and have not done any DH courses yet. I run 10km under 55mins just fine now, play basketball, but how I extend it during these sports, can’t compare to how fast and to the limit was my Achilles extended on that landing, and I don’t want to go through all that rehab and being unable to walk again.
  • + 1
 www.espn.com/nfl/news/story?id=2166378 3 Achilles tears and still started. So not always.
  • + 10
 Wtf why has everybody to repeat how long healing takes, her doctors will tell her.

Good time for a little Atherton ???? or more effort for the success of their company or whatever, one door closes another one opens. She has won everything and can do whatever makes her happy!

Get well soon
  • + 10
 Sucks so much! I know how she feels. Ruptured mine last October and was actually back on the bike by late March of this year and feeling pretty much back to normal by May, thanks to the miracles of modern medicine. Definitely a huge setback but a professional athlete like her should have no problem getting back to top form by the start of next season. Thankfully MTB is not like basketball...
  • + 3
 Great to hear this, for you and for Rach. I was worried it might be a much more serious long term affair, as its often considered an almost "end game" deal with basketball (i.e. you can come back, but you're not close to the same player). Lets hope for a full compliment of healthy lady pinners next season (including VH)!
  • + 2
 Richard Sherman of the Seahawks (now 49'ers)....(sorry, he's an American football defensive player) had a ruptured Achilles and missed the rest of the season which was about 3 months at that point. Had surgery by some esteemed foot and ankle doctor in Green Bay. He was back and playing the next season. However the NFL's perspective on various treatments like cortisone is a bit more lenient than the UCI's....
  • + 2
 @twozerosix: Good example, although I would also argue he is not the same player he was prior to the injury, but that may have more to do with the "system" he's playing in now and him just getting older/slower.
  • + 1
 @ruskyskier27 it’s not like basketball, it’s easier to torn Achilles on MTB. All it takes is slightly improper foot placement on the pedal when landing to flat.
  • + 3
 @jackalope If I'm not wrong, Ronald Curry (former UNC Tarheel QB & point guard) ruptured each achilles 2 separate years while in the NFL. He was a freak athlete and still had a long career as a receiver ironically.
  • + 3
 Crap. He had THREE. Tore his right one at the end of his UNC career. Tore the left one in the NFL, then re-tore the left one coming back too soon.
Freak...freak athlete.
www.espn.com/nfl/news/story?id=2166378
  • + 3
 @ruskyskier27 almost carbon copy story for me - fully ruptured in October, back on the bike late March, back to normal May...

I thought my rupture was due to staying clipped a bit too long, or badly placing the foot - doc said it wasn't my case - as I went over the bars and just as I was putting the foot down, brain realized there was no floor and reacted to compensate and it was the muscle pulling that ruptured it - he said that baby-elephant calves and adrenalin must have played it's part, specially because I didn't feel a thing, got up, picked my bike and was ready to go - when i rested my foot on the pedal I start realizing something was sorta wrong...

Anyways, everything done by the book, eat properly, sleep a ton, the moment the cast was out did thousands of reps to get me back on the bike... doc said 1 year to recover... but I had MTB trips booked... couldn't do 1 year... had to be back in 6 months.... hehehehe...
  • + 4
 @bizutch: Yeah, as an NCSU alum, I can attest to what a great athlete he was Frown The wikiped says he played 7 years, which is pretty long in the NFL, although I suspect he missed at least a season or 3 (or parts of them) while recovering. Still, pretty bad ass on his part to keep coming back from that...I will also say that like most injuries, there's probably a spectrum of severity which plays into how quickly you can recover.
  • + 9
 Such a bummer! Heal up soon Rachel, you'll be back to GOAT status in no time.
  • + 10
 Wow there's a lot of doctors on here today
  • + 1
 PBMD.com bro! hahaha
  • + 3
 For a bit of healthy balance, I'm an engineer, I don't like to say it on the tech related articles but have to declare it periodically to maintain my engineer status.

No-one can know how bad it will be for Rach except those who've taken scans/ done her observations. Speculation is part of our nature but all we can really do is send her our best wishes and healing vibes.
  • + 2
 @ROOTminus1: I’m an orthopedic medical consultant for surgeons. Spend every day in the OR, actually did two Achilles repairs last night. But still there’s no need to comment on PB and tell someone their outcome.
  • + 5
 Those suggesting she's done...

1) She's light. Comparing Rachel to an NFL or NBA player isn't really apples to apples. This will help the healing process.

2) Despite this injury occuring on a bike, bikes aren't inherently hard on this tendon the way cutting/sprinting/basketball/football is.

3) She's got the boys and girls at Red Bull behind her. This is a big asset when it comes to injury.

She'll be back. Probably with some gnarly footwear to go with it. But she'll be back. First world cup or bust.
  • + 4
 This sucks, just as a group of riders start to challenge her we lose Rachel for the rest of the season. After seeing how emotional Tracey was after beating her I bet she is disappointed that everybody will think she wins just due to injuries of others. Pom Pom needs to get back on course and send healing vibes to Rachel and Tahnee.
  • + 8
 Well another vitcim to the French Awkward-Ghettobuilt-Tracks
  • + 2
 Well, isn't what most people go for when asked what new school tracks should be like? BIG jumps, full speed, Hardline, etc?
  • + 5
 My right Achilles' tendon was severed in an accident, it is spliced and fastened with stainless wire. Recovery was hard but now it's my strongest part. Feel better fast Rachel.
  • + 4
 Absolute sh!t news for Rach. Gonna be a tough road back, but if anyone can do it, she certainly has the fortitude to make it work.

Btw, pretty sure "Achilles" has 2 LL's in it...#spellinggestapo
  • + 5
 Here is the incident, at very end.. m.youtube.com/watch?v=7nbAUWu61l0
  • + 2
 That's mot likely a season-ending injury. Hopefully, with modern surgical and treatment techniques she can make a full recovery. After 30, healing takes a lot longer. I know from experience. ;-) Hope you get the treatment you need to return to form as quickly as humanly possible, Rachel!
  • + 3
 The only slight silver lining us imagine the PR blitz she can do for Atherton Bikes while recovering. Incredibly well spoken and positive. Plus keeping busy during injuries has to help
  • + 2
 Gutted for Rach , looks like this season is going to be over sooner than planned , she did mention on wynn tv 2020 she’s of to the EWS go for it and kill it Rach ???? healing vibes sent ????
  • + 1
 9 months before you can start getting back on the bike. 12 months or little longer for full recovery. It will heal completely. must be very disappointing. flat pedals help prevent this kind of injury on a bike since the back of the heal is closer to the rear of the pedal the tendon does not move up and down as much, which you would have with clipless pedals.
  • + 4
 You might want to think about the pivot mechanics again. All that matters in where the pedal axle is in relationship to the foot. The further forward it is the more likely this sort of injury is.
  • + 0
 @sq225917: yes, i agree. that's what i was trying to say. with flats your pedal axle comes much closer to your heal.
  • + 1
 i sustained the worst kind of achilles rupture in 2010. non-operable, tendon from the muscle. alternatively, the tendon can rupture between the bone and muscle, or, the tendon can pull from the bone. both of which are operable. anyway, mine has never grown back to full strength, 80% at best. even with PT and continuous strength training. let's hope rachel's injury is not that severe...
  • + 1
 Hang in there Rachel! I ruptured my Achilles tendon while playing basketball in the 90's. I was on the (tennis) court a few months later. In some ways, a rupture heals better than a tear. Now, I have to look for the scar to remember which tendon ruptured. However, I could never dunk a basketball again (but I couldn't before, either).

I ruptured my spleen in the 80's, and broke my tib/fib six years ago. IMO both are much worse injuries.

Again, best wishes to Rachel for a full and speedy recovery.
  • + 1
 that's such a nasty injury - i fully ruptured my left achilles tendon ( left-foot forward ) last rb-foxhunt - i had a couple trips previously booked and that gave me a huge boost to get recovered in time - did everything as i was told, all the exercises, all the stretching, all the advised diet...... . i was back walking without crutches in 4 months, back on the bike sorta limited in 5 months .. .. to this day i'm still very conscious of it and my physio tells me my body still protects the achilles during my gym/biking sessions... . but i'm back on the bike, sooner than doc expected....

... i'm 100% sure you'll ace the recovery... . sending healing vibes - get well soon !
  • + 2
 Rachel, you are a real warrior and you will recover sooner than later to remind us all again and again as always. Healing vibes and hope to see you soon at the top of the podium again where you belong!!
  • + 6
 Healing vibes
  • + 2
 Really wondering if there is any truth to Benders Moto boot comment... maybe not quite as heavy duty but a bit more of a moto/bike hybrid
  • + 1
 Better ankle support would be a good thing imo. It would also help with incidents like Nina Hoffmann had last weekend with her foot coming out of her shoe.
  • + 2
 Poor Rachel will get a heart attack on top of her Achilles problems, from all these 'negative", know it all doctors here!!
Heal up girl and see you back on the mountain soon!
  • + 3
 Anyone else cringe instantly the second the word 'ruptured' is used in reference to the human body?
  • + 3
 Well if it’s indeed a ruptured Achilles then she’s out for a minimum of a year. Sad stuff - she’s a fun one to watch.
  • + 4
 Wishing you all the best Rachel.
  • + 3
 Shows how tough this sport is. 3 top females are on the injury list, + how many in the top 10'ish with injuries.
  • + 2
 Truly sorry to hear that. Stay strong, your fans love and support you all the way. You are amazing no matter what. Healing vibes to you.
  • + 4
 Wishing you the most speedy of recoveries Rachel!
  • + 4
 Sending good vibes for a fast and great recovery!!
  • + 4
 Healing vibes. Get well soon!!
  • + 4
 Man this season has been crazy along with the EWS injuries
  • + 4
 Awful news for Rach! She was killing it this year. Healing vibes!
  • + 3
 So no dancing? Dang. I hope it's only a strain, because the sport needs you.
  • + 4
 Take care Rach, be brave, you know you'll come back stronger.
  • + 1
 Damn PARS surgery doesn’t look fun,my step dad just did the same from a rock climbing accident a couple weeks ago!at least the doctors these days can fix that!
  • + 3
 OOOOOOOOOOUCH.... That sucks...
  • + 1
 Sad - shall we just give Tracey the title now or see if all the top riders can wreck themselves before the end of the season?
  • + 1
 So sorry to see this. Definitely 6 months before WC level return. I wonder why the cast. With surgery could start rehab bike at 1 month
  • + 3
 Damn... Achilles take SO long to heal.
  • + 2
 Hopefully it is not ruptured. A ruptured Achilles has been career ending in some sports where running is key.
  • + 3
 Weeeeeellllll that s*cks big time.
Get well soon Rachel
  • + 3
 So gutted for her! Was finally getting up to speed on the new ride too!
  • + 1
 As someone who has recently ruptured a tendon, left distal bicep, I know how painful this is. A speedy recovery to you @rachybox.
  • + 3
 Such a shame, killing it this season. Heal up quick Rachel!
  • + 3
 SUCK! Hate that for Rach. This has been a rough year.
  • + 4
 NO!
  • + 1
 Sorry to hear it Rachel. We hope you heal up soon and are back ripping on the bike in no time!
  • + 1
 Oh no Frown how long will she be out for? Could the rest of her season be kissed goodbye? Eek
  • + 1
 Tracey was already nipping at her heels and now this. Heel up soon Rachel!
  • + 2
 That doesn’t look like it’s any fun
  • + 1
 This is a terrible year for mountain biking. Be strong Rachel.
  • + 1
 Never ask sorry for trying to give your best. And fast recovery.
  • + 1
 So sorry to hear, I wish you the best of recoveries!
  • + 1
 Super bummed, Each runs always a highlight of the weekend. Get well!
  • + 1
 damn thats horrible. hoping its not as bad as a full rupture
  • + 1
 Heal up Rachel, you'll be back!!!
  • + 1
 Sending you healing vibes Rachel. You are a great inspiration!
  • + 1
 Damn all three top women out on injuries, that’s crazy.
  • + 1
 oh fudge! Heal up Rachel, that is no joke! Best wishes!
  • + 1
 She will be fine but it will take time mine is good as new after repair
  • + 1
 Track seems like an experiment.
  • + 1
 Same shit for me ???? out for 1 year ????
  • + 1
 NOOOOOOOOO! just NOOOOO! not now...
  • + 0
 That's a great POV view of her. I'm saving that one.
  • + 1
 Hang Tough Rachel!
  • + 1
 Healing vibes Girl!!!
  • + 1
 No bueno
  • + 1
 Get well soon Rach!
  • + 1
 Probably out for a year.
  • + 1
 4 to 6 months recovery time, so basically this season.
  • + 1
 Shit dudes!????
  • - 6
flag Hillsider123 (Jul 11, 2019 at 8:59) (Below Threshold)
 tehehehe
  • - 1
 All Redbull female DH athletes out from racing for now... ????
  • + 3
 The "Redbull-curse" as the "Madden-curse" in NFL video-gaming...?
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