I wanted to write this earlier, but it took me some time to calm down and climb off my soapbox.
A few days ago I was digging around on one of those roller derby Facebook groups and I came across a discussion about broken legs. The original poster had just had a rash of broken legs sweep through their league (and a few neighboring leagues) and was wondering what might be causing it and whether or not anyone else was noticing it too.
- Is it because of all the backwards blocking?
- Are there more because of how derby is evolving?
- What’s going on?!?
Answers came in droves; from people that, I assume, aren’t doctors or physical therapists or insurance agents or otherwise intimately knowledgable in the area of athletic injuries. Answers ranging from “take a calcium supplement” through to “they’re mostly just freak accidents“.
I’m not going to jump on my soapbox about getting medical advice from a Facebook forum (that’s for another time), but I did want to talk about this issue of broken legs.
A couple of months ago, I experienced a similar spike in broken legs in my own league. The article I wrote about it was about how injuries are often MORE common when you’re coming back from one, but I think it’s time to address the entire issue.
Are there more broken legs in roller derby now than there used to be?
I wish I actually had the data to answer that question, but I doubt it even exists. There may be some claims through WFTDA, but not everyone plays that rules set. And even if they did, I’m skeptical that everyone that gets injured files a claim.
Here’s what I do know:
- Roller derby IS getting more aggressive and requiring greater athletic prowess than ever before.
Inherent in this is the oft-missed truth that, if you play roller derby, you are an athlete. And if you want to be good at roller derby, you have to train like an athlete.
Training like an athlete is difficult to manage with the kind of help (little-to-none) and the kind of knowledge (little-to-none) available to the common derby skater. Most skaters don’t even search this knowledge out or use GOOD, SOLID resources because they miss the first step: they don’t consider themselves to be true athletes.
- The majority of skaters are amateurs.
Not in the “you’ll never be any good sense”, but in the “you don’t get paid to do this” sense. Which means that you’re managing your life along with your athletic training.
That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, but it does mean you have to be intentional about it. Half-assed cross training a couple of times a week every once in a while, coupled with an off-kilter eating schedule and sleep deprivation 2 to 3 nights a week isn’t ideal.
- The sport is still evolving and relies on other sports (and other organizations) to exist.
The training that exists for roller derby is largely drawn from other roller and skate sports. Until a few years ago, cross training for roller derby skaters wasn’t even something that was talked about or seen as a big deal.
We’re still playing around with how to run practices, whether scrimmaging is a good idea or not, and how to support our training on the back end. AND because of derby’s reliance on rink schedules and amateur skaters, we also are forced to practice late at night after entire days full of work and living.
- Skaters aren’t taking responsibility for themselves.
Did I lose you? Hear me out…
Upwards of 30% of the broken legs that were discussed in that forum board were labeled as “freak accidents“. Isn’t the definition of a freak accident that it doesn’t happen easily or frequently?
Yes, freak accidents happen. But isn’t it more likely that we, as skaters, are ignoring the warning signs of impending doom? The lack of sleep, the need to push through every thing, the messed up daily schedules, the FULL DAY before a FULL PRACTICE.
The exact moment of the break might seem like a freak accident, but it’s a freak accident that’s been building over time. And it was a slow build that no one was paying attention to.
I get it.
I’ve broken my leg.
In fact, I’ve been injured a ridiculous number of times and I will tell you that ALL OF THEM could have been avoided if I had trained like an athlete and taken responsibility for myself; taken care of myself.
I take that back, I probably couldn’t have avoided the 9-month injury that way. But definitely the rest.
The conversation in the forum was interesting; all about the external things that might be causing these broken bones. Yes, the athleticism increases the likelihood a bit, but there are other equally athletic sports that don’t have to ask this question. Yes, there’s a lot of backwards blocking and transitions. Yes, women are more prone to osteoporosis, but usually much later than their 20s and 30s.
But what if the majority of these issues aren’t external?
- Do you get enough sleep?
- Do you hydrate appropriately?
- Do you eat right?
- Do you train sport specifically?
- Do you take rest and recovery days when you need to?
- Do you stop during a practice if something feels off and take some time?
Training like an athlete and preventing injuries includes all of those things.
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