Derby Strong: Part 3. An ounce of prevention

Some derby players have an almost super human ability to stay on their feet no matter the hit. Sadly, most of us aren’t like that. As I mentioned in my first Derby Strong post, my knees took a hard hit (the floor) at the end of my first season. Part of it is because of how I fell, but I believe that if I had invested in better equipment, it may not have been as bad.

In 2006, roller derby players were still trying to figure out what equipment worked best. Some of my teammates invested in larger, thicker knee pads. Even though my knees have popped since I was a kid, I opted for smaller knee pads, assuming that larger knee pads would make skating more difficult. Worst assumption ever. Now I not only wear thicker knee pads, I also sport knee gaskets.

Knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, helmets and mouth guards are all required gear for derby. Some players take note of injuries and take steps to prevent them with optional gear. While some leagues believe that optional equipment, such as shin guards or padded shorts, make players sloppy, I firmly disagree. I have yet to see a player whose skill level dropped because she started wearing shin guards. If anything, it increased her confidence.

Courtesy: five5six design
Wear the right socks or leg warmers and no one can even tell if you’re wearing shin guards.

If optional protective gear won’t solve your problem, you may want to upgrade the required gear you wear. In my six years as a news producer, I aired story after story about concussions and how they can effect your cognitive abilities. In some cases, doctors believe they have changed people’s personalities. Concussions are no joke and, in a contact sport like roller derby, are all too common.

Most players wear helmets designed for skate boarders. These helmets

DBC says praise derby and hockey helmets!

are designed for multiple impacts, unlike bicycle helmets. But if you seem prone to concussions, you may want to upgrade to a hockey helmet to better protect that beautiful brain. Some Houston Roller Derby’s players have opted for hockey helmets. One of the home teams even requires them. I’ve asked several of them how they compared to skate helmets, and the only complaint was one girl who said she sweated more in a hockey helmet. Wearing a bandana is a quick fix for that. (Here’s a blog post from Wicked Skatewear about choosing a helmet.)

Opinions on mouth guards are sort of like opinions on politics. Everyone thinks their mouth guard is best and everyone else’s sucks. Before purchasing my current mouth guard, I put on my investigative reporter hat and researched. Since I’ve taken hits to the face and jaw, I knew I wanted something a little thicker than Protech Dent mouth guards that are so popular. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with those mouth guards. Lots of skaters seems quite satisfied with them. But based on my face’s ability to get in the way of elbows, I decided I wanted a mouth guard with more padding that would also allow me to talk to my teammates. The solution was Shock Doctor Gel Max. It’s the same mouth guard some MMA fighters use. Aside from words that start with p or r, I feel like I can talk okay and my gorgeous teeth and jaw are protected. Since I know Shock Doctor isn’t for everyone, I highly encourage you to do your own research before upgrading your mouth guard.

Roller derby isn’t a sport for the delicate. We play hard and put our bodies and equipment through hell. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take measures to keep ourselves safe. Do your research and find out what works for you.

Don’t forget to support your favorite derby-owned businesses this Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.


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