Derby can be Dangerous

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:
1. Physiotherapy
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,

Grazed Anatomy xx

I do not like derby kisses

I do not like derby kisses. No indeedy. I know they are seen as badge of honour in our sport but I get them at nearly EVERY session. From weekly ‘fairy punches’ (small random bruises all over my body, mostly my arms) to deep purple bruises the size of tea plates that take forever to go (thank you Lady Loco of Swansea City Slayers, NiKilla and Jen Baxter of CRoC ;-) )

Fairy punches

I bruise ridiculously easily. At our annual awards, my award was for bruising and not for dishing them out! In fact I am the Queen of bruises, and nearly changed my derby name from Abadabadoo to Princess Peach. I’ve always been like this. In fact when I used to play a bit of football and go sport climbing my legs were pretty spectacular most of the time. In the summer when I would wear shorts, my poor husband (then boyfriend) would get some really dirty looks.

More bruises

It seems in the world of derby, derby girls love to get bruised. In fact I’ve often heard complaints of ‘I never bruise’, ‘oh I hope I get a good bruise from that’. I understand showing the ones you’ve earned on track as badges of honour. But I don’t wish to get a bruise. As on a whole the ones I get that cause other people go ‘Wow! That’s a derby kiss!’ well they hurt, take ages (months) to go and tend to be on the spot that you will land on again and again and again. I even bruise from doing a baseball slide.

Unfortunately for my team, Cardiff Roller Collective (CRoC) when they try and show off a bruise, I go a bit Mick ‘CRoC’ Dundee on them and say ‘that’s not a bruise, now this is a bruise!’ And usually pull down my shorts/socks and display whatever piece of Technicolor bruise I’m sporting that week.

Call that a bruise?

There is plenty of compulsory protective gear in Roller Derby, but not ones that protect your hips and arse. I’ve read a quote somewhere that if men had invented roller derby. Crash pants/padded shorts would have been compulsory safety wear. But because of women’s ‘does my bum look big in this’ issue it is not. As it is not compulsory crash pants are a personal preference. For me they are essential.

WFTDA rule section on PROTECTIVE GEAR states:
10.1.3 Optional protective gear such as padded shorts, chin guards, form fitting face shields such as nose guards, shin guards, knee or ankle support, turtle shell bras and tailbone protectors may be worn at the skaters’ discretion as long as they do not impair or interfere with safety or play of other skaters, support staff, or officials. Chin guards, form fitting shields such as nose guards, turtle shell bras, tailbone protectors and shin guards may have a hard protective shell. No other optional protective gear may have a hard protective shield.

Whereas most derby skaters are desperately seeking that ‘perfect wheel’ I am searching for the perfect crash pant. The ones I own are ok but I’ve still had some juicy bruises through them. I really would like some that meet the rule criteria of no hard shell on the hips but also really reduces my bruising and my now very lumpy hip bursa.

Wearing current shorts

With current shorts

I’ve reviewed a few padded shorts, or crash pants, as I like to call them on our teams’ forum. Please feel free to read and comment and review your own crash pants. As I feel that there are heaps of reviews for skates, kneepads, wheels etc… but not enough out there for crash pants.

There are derby specific crash pants out there. These are your more sexy shorts, which allow you still to wear hotpants. If all you’re worried about is your coccyx these are for you. If you are in need of anything that protects the hip and upper thigh then please invest in something a bit more substantial albeit less flattering. I found this out the hard way.

Sexier derby crash pants

Sexy shorts did not work

There are two particular brands I am looking into at the moment, Burton Red and POC.

The Burton Red Womens Impact short looks quite interesting with the D30, which supposedly malleable to wear but hardens on impact, material in the hip. But the hip padding looks very specifically located so may not be for me.
Another product is the POC Hip VPD 2.0 Shorts. The VPD material again is malleable to wear and hardens on impact. The hip coverage on these looks quite good. In fact my local bike shop (Sorry Nat of Bridgend Cycle Centre), supplies these and I’ve just been in and poked some of the chest protection stuff as they didn’t have shorts in stock. I am tempted…so very very tempted…they’ve got a delivery later today and I may just go back in…

I’m hoping the ‘malleable when wearing stuff’ is within the WFTDA rule set. My theory is a hip check to another player will not cause the material to firm up, too much, and cause damage to another player but it should protect me when a get knocked to a hard floor.

So if any of these fine manufacturers, stand by their gear and would like to break into the roller derby market, perhaps they would like to sponsor me ;-) as I am the perfect bruisable guinea pig, so please get in touch ;-)

Abs aka Abadabadoo

Ps. I also wear shin guards as there is no padding on shins and wheels hurt and leave nasty lumps!

Bruised shins