Bruises and rink rash are common place on a derby team, and are often a source of pride. With all our crash pants, knee and elbow pads, wrist guards, mouth guards and helmets it can be easy to forget that you can still get really hurt while playing derby, injuries aren’t just for the inexperienced skater either!
My injury happened in September 2011 after a series of unfortunate events coincided. I hadn’t skated for a month, I was tired and there was no tread left on my wheels for grip. During a mixed scrimmage I was chasing the jammer as she left the pack, attempting to recycle her. I think I clipped my wheels with hers, the rest is a little bit of a blur, so I’m going to rely on eye witness testimony: “You bounced off your head” – Jen Baxter.
The refs called for everyone to take a knee because I wasn’t able to compose myself quickly enough to get off the track. My fiancé was reffing that night and was first on the scene. He took me to the sin bin where some of my team mates could keep an eye on me while the rest of the team kept playing.
After a couple of jams my head didn’t hurt as much so I headed back to my bench. I noticed my fingers were hurting a little so I took off my rings, just in case they started to swell.
Another couple of jams went by and I was back on track. Every time I would come off for a break I noticed my fingers were hurting more and more, but I could wiggle them so I assumed everything was fine. Clearly, I have no medical training!
I went home and iced my fingers without even considering going to casualty. It was a Friday night so I knew it would be crazy and I genuinely didn’t think anything was wrong. Luckily my mum is a trained first aider and, the next day, took one look at my now black fingers and took me to the hospital. Four hours later I got the news I’d been dreading: I’d broken my ring and little finger on my right hand.
The injury suggested that I had put my hand out to break my fall and bent both these fingers back so far that the tendons had chipped the bones. I asked the nurse if I would be able to play the weekend after, and she said, in no uncertain terms, that I couldn’t. This is when I started to cry. For the first time I realized that this injury was going to affect playing.
Having a finger injury isn’t the worst. After a week I was back on skates so that I could assist with coaching and was able to work on my fitness as well as using that time to support the rest of the team. Within 6 weeks I was scrimmaging again, and was able to play in an open bout at the end of November.
Despite my confidence at playing again a lot of the people closest to me knew that my fingers weren’t healing as they should. I wasn’t able to extend the two broken fingers passed a certain point. To cut a long story short I went to see my GP in December with regards my non-healing fingers and finally saw a specialist in March, 2012, five months after I initially sustained my injury.
The news wasn’t great. After meeting with two hand specialist, a physio and 5 other people who I think were just curious, I got my diagnosis. The gristle that stops your fingers from hyper extending had shrunk while my fingers were bandaged.
I had 3 options:
2. Surgery, or
3. Do nothing
Some of you may already have decided what you’d do, but I should also point this out: it didn’t matter which option I chose, the extent of the damage was such that I would never be able to extend my fingers fully again. To me the choice was obvious but many of you will probably disagree. A lot of people do.
I’ve chosen to do nothing. Well, not completely, I do a little physio myself. When I first told my Mum and my fiancé what my decision was they both went on to tell me how wrong I was, and still do from time to time.
If you’re wondering why I’ve chosen this option there’s a little experiment you can do to help you understand. Bind your little finger and ring finger together in a buddy strap then go about your day. How much stuff can’t you do now? For me, my day to day life is unaffected by my injury. I refuse, therefore to put myself through hours of pain and discomfort in order to get a little more movement from two fingers I don’t use. I’d lose work to go to hospital appointments (I’m self-employed so there’s no sick leave) and I wouldn’t be able to drive after the operation so even more work lost and I’d need to ask people to drive me to the shops and training.
As I am now I can crack on with my life as it was before. I’m still playing derby, knitting, teaching, quilting, driving and I’ve recently started pole dancing with some of my team mates. The only thing I can’t do is give a right handed high five!
Skating with CRoC over the last two years has been amazing. When I started derby I was hoping to learn a new and interesting sport while meeting people with similar interests. I’ve achieved this, and more. The skaters, refs, coaches, supporters and everyone else who has a hand in this amazing team are like a family to me. As much as this injury may have been frustrating, painful, and unexpectedly permanent, it can’t compare with the friends, experiences and self confidence I’ve gained through playing.
Stay safe and love every minute,