Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Phoenixes do rise: Coming back from a derby injury

Image found here.

We all worry about injuries in this sport.  I'm not talking about owies, or bad rink rash; I'm talking about serious, potential game ending injuries.  Some people get injured and choose to leave the game, but some skaters fight through surgery, rehab, physical therapy, and getting wheels back under them again.  I really do feel these skaters are phoenixes, and I admire them immensely.  Not everyone makes it back from an injury to skate the track again, and that is ok too.  I don't know how I would react if I was injured.  I'm not sure I would risk re-injurying myself, but my hat is off to those brave brave women who jump back into the fray.

Unfortunately, coming back from derby isn't just a struggle for the injured skater: it's also a struggle for her league mates.  Everyone is happy to see the returning skater, but there is definitely a fear that you might re-break a freshly healed skater.  When I'm in a jam with a freshly returning skater, I get a little nervous about hitting her; I can't help it.  I don't want to be the one who accidentally trips her, or hits her just right/wrong.  I know that it isn't fair, but just remember that a lot of people do feel that way when a returning skater comes back.  Trust me when I say that this apprehension goes away after a couple of scrimmages, so if you are coming back from an injury, cut your teammates some slack, and know that they will be back to pummeling the crap out of you soon enough!

The following stories are from women who have overcome different injuries or situations.  Some injuries kept them off skates for a couple of months, while others had to deal with more serious issues, like cancer.  Please read them and take strength from these brave phoenixes of derby. 

Injury March 13. Denial of injury and off skates for a week. Played Boston and Providence March 20/21. Knew things weren't good. Doctor appointment that week. Heavy antiinflammatories for a week and an MRI. Doctor said "torn meniscus completely obliterated acl and severe bone bruise". I decided to get a brace and try to play anyway. The pain was overwhelming (the meniscus was folded over) and so I decided to have surgery.

 Surgery May 13 2010. Back on skates September 15thish. My PT could no longer see me so I just stopped. First scrimmage back November 3 2010. Felt super wobbly. Still weak. Went to new PT and he said "heck no techno" so I did another 5 weeks of 2x a week of PT. Wore a brace when I returned to full contact for about 4 months. First Allstar bout back was Feb 2011 against DC. Got better slowly...pain subsided. Strength returned. It's like it never happened...except I am way more aware of my stability and strength now. I think more about my positioning and what muscles I use to stabilize my knees.
Daisy Rage, Carolina Rollergirls  (And my big derby sister)

I dislocated my shoulder back in June, had pretty extensive surgery in October, was in an immobilizer for 10 weeks, and have been in physical therapy since. I just came back to derby 4 weeks ago, although I started skating with a speed team back in January because I wasn't cleared for contact but wanted to work on something!
Nicole Flanagan, Charlotte Speed Demons 


I started with BRRG when it very first started, then went to Mexico for a week and three days after I came back was in the hospital with L leg paralysis and spasticity. Was walking again in 3 months, and started derby 2 years (to the day) from that horrible, horrible morning.

I still can't feel my left foot and have proprioception issues with it. Makes learning juking, muscle memory stuff, etc difficult. I don't know I've locked wheels with someone until my knee senses it.

My ex-husband never thought I'd be good enough to play derby with my brain thing....eff him. I'm captain now and I kick ass, one practice and bout at a time.
PS.  I was still taking antispasmotic meds when I started derby.
Rigor Morticia, Blue Ridge Rollergirls


I just came off four months of medi leave because of chemotherapy to treat leukemia. I skated (badly) the entire time I was on medi leave and kept coming to practice, but it wasn't easy. I wasn't able to do any contact and I missed bouting. Some of my derby sisters were very supportive, others weren't.

Basically everything just came on very very suddenly and in a matter of weeks I went from playing in bouts to sitting everything out. Over the course of treatment I was able to do less and less. Some girls really helped me out a lot, staying overnight with me after treatments, stuff like that. When I finally came back it was almost like starting from scratch again. I had to build back my endurance, and relearn how to take a hit. Most girls understood that. There are always going to be douchebags who don't understand the concept of relearning, but I'd say 99% of the girls have been great. Medi leave reminded me how important derby is in my life, though, because missing work, missing going out with my friends, none of that compared to missing that second whistle feeling.

The thing is, the girls who were jerks have always been jerks, and always will be. Medi leave just makes you hypersensitive to people's comments.


Sept 30, 2008 first time on skates evvvvvar!   Beth Row and Sunni D'lite held my hand and took me around the skate ranch on a single lap.. (so i have 3 derby moms, Fate, Big Spoon and Sunni) tried to teach myself to skate til Sept 2009 (was a big Fail)

Ballz took me under her wing in Sept 2009 to teach me how to skate (had to unlearn bad habits first then learn the right way) I did CRG tryouts (kinda like a dry run) in June 2010 knowing i didn't have all the skills needed, but i had to go through the process to understand it better.

Aug 2, 2010 i was broken when a kid at Wheels ran into me purposely (shit happens in Durham), first surgery Aug 12, 2010, had a plate and 8 screws put in, I fell in Sept and bent the plate and reinjured the ankle bad enough to require surgery #2 on Oct 6, 2010. I wasn't cleared to walk without crutches until March 2011, got back on skates in May 2011 and am working hard to gain back my strength as I was non-weight bearing on the ankle for almost 5 months and basically lost all muscle tone in the left leg.

I still have issues with numbness in the left leg; I would say I have about 1/2 the feeling in the leg from the knee down since there was significant nerve damage because of the falls and 2 surgeries. I can't always tell when the left skate is completely on the ground so I kinda sound like a horse clip clopping my way around the track.

Derby is a major part of the fabric of my life and has been since I became a fan of CRG in March 2005 and a volunteer in 2006. I have worked with the Charlotte Roller Girls on and off since 2007, the Rogue RollerGirls since 2007; occasionally, I have worked with Cape Fear, and Camel City. I can not imagine not trying to skate again and fulfill my dream of actually playing Derby at some point. I figure I have paid my dues and I will be damned if I will give up now no matter how frustrated or upset i get with my inability to do certain skills I am 63 years young and believe I will be at least 65 before I actually am a full fledged sk8n rollergirl.
XX Factor, CRG volunteer and awesome all around human being! 

If you have worries about being injured, and let's face it, most of us do, please check out Bonnie D. Stoir's recent  blog post.


  1. My derby wife came back from an acl tear and subsequent surgery this past year. She came back to skating just as I was passing my assessments. Sometimes she goes down on that knee and I feel it in my heart. She is still one of the most badass women I know and I commend her for kicking so much tail after such a huge injury.

    1. I am currently off skates for an acl injury. May I ask how long she was off skates for? We just became WFTDA apprentice and I don't want to miss to much.