No pain, no gain, right? But what if the pain is accompanied by a “pop”, or a “crack”, or some other noise or feeling you don’t want coming from your body? Where is the gain there? Weirdly, I am finding it is not all bad.
No two ways about it: it sucks. The pain and embarrassment initially, the stupidly long hours at the hospital, the short term disruption to your work and family life, missing skating and anything else social you had planned for a few weeks. In the long term, all the hours on skates you are missing, your fitness depleting, the worry about whether your leg/joint/arm or whatever will ever be normal again, and if you will ever get back to where you were with other people overtaking you in your absence.
Even with all of this going through my head as I sat trackside trying not to cry, I felt OK about it. This was mostly because I was watching Smack (who had done the same thing 9 weeks earlier) skating round the track getting used to being on skates again, and she looked fine. As did Silva and Delta, who had been off with worse injuries. Not only are they fully rehabilitated, but they are looking stronger than ever, so I knew it wasn’t the end. If you are going to get injured, at least in roller derby you are in great company.
Within 24 hours I had been sent 3 lots of rehab exercises by team mates, physio recommendations and tips for navigating the NHS, tons of support and a number of email/text/pm conversations during my 5 hour wait at A&E with skaters who had been in that position before. Along with further help entertaining my son, driving me places, and helping with shopping, the support made it a lot easier than it might have been had I not had derby friends to help. After this initial stage, it was just a waiting game…
How to cope with that long, long, wait though? Despite the screams and tears and wails you sometimes hear when someone gets injured, it is giving up playing roller derby to play the waiting game that is the killer. It is missing out on the guest coach session you were looking forward to, missing a game, missing out on learning and mastering a particular technique, missing everyone and watching others get better. Then there are the day to day annoyances: I can’t pee easily with this stupid leg brace on, everything aches from compensating, and I’m not sleeping well due to the injury. Then there’s the problem of stairs, getting in and out of cars, not doing any exercise and the concern I will never get back in my bout uniform as I comfort eat, boredom-eat, just generally eat… they are already selling mince-pies, so what choice do I have but to eat??? It all just gets you down. At least if you can’t drive there is nothing wrong with opening a bottle of wine before lunch? My 3 year old wasn’t sure he agreed.
Luckily, as isolating as it can feel, you are not alone. There is a roller derby Facebook group for the injured, and our league set up a page for a team mate to get them through a tough time with funny posts and animal videos to help deal with the boredom. We are lucky too to have a welfare team who contact you to check you are OK. It is also a chance to take a step back (or hobble if it’s a leg injury) and see another side of the league, take a break or work on something non derby. Maybe I jinxed myself, but only the day before my “incident”, I said to our head ref that I would like to try and ref occasionally to help my rules knowledge and help the league. Well, I have the chance now. And if not reffing, it is still great to watch your team mates sometimes and not be worrying about your own performance. I am really enjoying seeing people’s improvements, noticing how a new technique is working, and being able to provide an outside perspective. It’s also a novelty to come home from training with no stinky wet kit to hang up, and I can get another couple of days out of not washing my hair.
It helps too having taken 18 months off to have my son, and returning OK to work my way up into the A team. So a couple of months off seems easy. I now know roller derby just carries on and will always be there and I can afford the time to heal properly.
This misery and desperation for many to get back on skates though can sometimes force people back a little too early. This is high-risk for more injury and more time off skates. But if it is possible to hold back a bit and take just a bit more time, it can be a good thing to have a goal to push you to heal and get better and take an interest in rehabilitation. As active sports people, we should be interested in the mechanics of the body and optimal performance and this can play a huge part in our healing. I have met non-active people who get injured and then just leave it, and years later they say it never really healed properly. Obviously anyone could have an injury that causes ongoing problems, but we are in the perfect environment with a great incentive to get the best healing going. SO, if you are going to get injured, a derby injury isn’t the worst. It also sounds damn cool when people ask how you did it. (Although then comes the inevitable explanation of RD, where the ball is etc…. blah blah).
So 5 years on from first joining the world of roller derby, I am pretty zen about finally joining the injured (though I hope it is my last injury!).
– Fiery Temper