The more I play, watch and read about derby, the more I think we as skaters might want to consider getting more than the minimum protective gear. Everyone has to wear mouth guards, helmets, wrist guards, elbow pads and knee pads. Those are a given, but what else do you think the evolution of our sport demands?
First of all, I'm pretty sure that everyone who reads my blog on any kind of regular basis knows that I am a gigantic fan of shin guards. I'm not sure if there is a more painful "minor" injury in our sport than getting kicked in the shins by another skater. If you haven't been kicked in the shins in derby, you are lucky, and also, GET READY, it's coming. Close packs and sprints to catch the jammer cause all sorts of kickbacks from skaters. I've been wearing shin guards since my rookie year, after getting nailed by a vet when I was jamming, and I haven't regretted it since. My shins are about the only part of my body that hasn't been permanently scarred by derby. I know, you might get a few "You must suck at skating to have to wear those" looks from people, but who cares? You're the one who has to live in your body for the rest of your life. In fact, that's going to be an ongoing refrain for every bit of protective gear in this blog post. You're not a wimp if you want to protect your body.
The second suggestion I have, and I can't believe this is considered to be "extra" protective gear by most people, but to get yourself a good pair of knee gaskets. Some women on my team skate without them, and by "some" read "young". The older I get, the more I notice my knees, and that was happening before derby; gaskets are a good idea no matter how old or young you are. They also help keep the derby funk from infecting your knee pads. Knee pads are a pain to replace, and washing them can be awkward. Gaskets help keep your sweat off of the knee pads, along with keeping your knee supported and even more padded. Let's face it, knee pads slip all of the time; even the fancy custom ones can, so having a gasket to help keep your knees from being smashed on the floor is a good idea.
When I asked my protective gear question on Facebook, the number 2 suggestion was "protective padded shorts." I'm not surprised; derby has changed. What used to be a "rookie" injury has now become common place due to backward blocking, running backwards, and direction of game play being the norm. When I was rehabbing my back injury, I sported a pair of these shorts. They're comfortable, and they will protect your tailbone from most impact, but they are hot and the padding that protects your hip area doesn't go low enough, but they are a light weight option. If you're really serious about butt, hip and tailbone protection, get you some Hillbilly Impact shorts, gurrrrrl.
Finally, I'm going to mention hockey helmets again. The more derby goes on, the more people I see wearing hockey helmets, which makes me smile. People are starting to take their brain safety seriously, and that is nothing but a good thing for our sport. If you do choose to buy a hockey helmet, you might think about adding a face shield to protect your schnozz. During D1s and D2s, I started a running tally of how many times jammers were holding their faces from high blocks. It was easily ten times for each game, and that's a lot of face hits. Have you ever broken your nose in derby? I have. It is a very shocking and sobering injury, and it's one I hope nobody ever experiences! If you have a hockey helmet, you can add a face shield to stop the face hits. Right now, only one player in my league has a face shield, but a lot of us have hockey helmets. I think we might see more of them in the future, especially since most high blocks are missed by the refs.
Don't let someone ever talk you out of wearing the protective gear you feel is necessary. Sometimes older skaters scoff at newer ideas in derby, including protective gear that might lend itself to this ever evolving game we play. I listen the to scoffing and then do my own research. You should do the same.