Derby Strong: Part 1. Are you hurt or are you injured?

I am not a doctor and don’t claim to know all the answers. The information I’ve included below is based off of my experience as a roller derby player. If you ever have any doubts or concerns about something happening to your body, I strongly suggest you consult a doctor.

Derby girls are tough. We take hits. We give hits. We slide across the floor at full speed (sometimes into walls or people). Part of our core training is to immediately get back up when we fall. Sometimes, we push it too far. I’ve seen girls who were obviously injured continue to skate. Trust me when I say this does you and your team absolutely no good.

My left knee gives me grief sometimes. This started at the end if my first season with the Panama City Roller Derby league when we played the Dixie Derby Girls of Huntsville, Alabama. As the girls walked into our venue, we got the impression this was going to be a David vs Goliath bout. I swear they lined up the tallest, most solid girls on their team and said, “You, go forth and smite PCRD.” That’s certainly how it felt.

In one of the last jams, I tried to hit a DDG blocker.  Since she was too stable to knock over, I bounced off of her like a pinball and into another equally stable DDG blocker. I fell hard on both my knees at the same time.

Weeks after, my left knee was swollen and tender. I could barely skate, and I certainly couldn’t fall on it. A trip to the

While off skates, I rocked the mic as announcer.
doctor showed swelling and inflammation. Thankfully, no muscle tears, but PCRD was well into the next season before I was cleared to skate again. I could have pushed it, but skating on an injury slows the healing process and limits performance on the track.

I know some girls feel like their team really needs them. That may be true. You may be your team’s best jammer, and they really need you in the next bout. But the cold hard facts are that (a) you will not be skating at your best, (b) you could hurt yourself even more, and (c) you could hurt another player.

So what is the difference between hurt and injured? The definition varies from player to player. Since my knee injury, I’ve learned the difference between injuring that knee and it just acting up. It took a little time to define the two. If I can skate and fall without sharp, dear-god-let-me-die-now pain, I’m okay. If it’s just twinging, keep skating.

 Some good questions to ask yourself:

  • Can I skate without searing pain?
  • Can I fall without searing pain?
  • Am I still capable of delivering and taking strong hits?
  • Is my vision blurring?
  • Am I having trouble remembering basic instructions?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, I would strongly suggest you avoid skating and go see a doctor. The blurred vision and trouble remembering things may mean you have a concussion. Kamikaze Kitten of the London Rollergirls has written a good blog post on her own experience with a concussion. Do not! I repeat. DO NOT skate while you have a concussion. While I’m not a doctor, I understand that concussions are a brain injury. Why would you want to risk further damaging your brain? When in doubt, sit it out. There is no shame in putting your health first.

Leaving on a stretcher doesn’t help your team

Maybe you aren’t experiencing sharp pain or blurred vision. Maybe you are experiencing new or unexplained pain. Shin splints are pretty common for new skaters, but don’t panic if they suddenly happen after years of skating. I recently discovered that new skating surfaces can give me shin splints. The solutions that work for me are insoles for my skates and socks with arch support.

Have you suddenly started feeling discomfort in your hip or shoulder? It probably isn’t a serious injury. It could be from overuse. Try researching new stretches or exercises that target the places you feel discomfort. If that doesn’t help, go see your doctor. You may have strained something and need to rest for a week or take some anti-inflammatory medication.

What happens after you’ve established you have an injury? Keep going to practice. If your doctor says you can skate but avoid contact, ask if it’s okay to just skate during warm-ups and non-contact drills. Take the opportunity to learn the rules better. Ref during practice scrimmages if needed. If you can’t skate, show up to NSO. Maybe there’s a new skater who is looking for feedback. You can take the opportunity to watch her during practice and let her know what you think she needs to improve. A point made in a really good article about dealing with an injury is to focus on what can be done and not what can’t be done.

In summation…

  • Bruised? Skate it out.
  • Sore? Skate it out.
  • Discomfort? Skate it out.
  • Sprained? Sit it out.
  • Fractured? Sit it out.

Listen to your body and your doctor. Nothing is worth the possibility of being sidelined permanently.

In my next post, I’ll talk about what to expect when you come back from an injury. Let me know if you have anything specific you would like discussed.


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