For more than a month, I've been wanting to sit down and really chronicle the process—to be corny, the journey—of being seriously injured in roller derby, healing and returning to the sport. The task just seemed to large, and I knew I wouldn't do it justice. My goal was to create a sort of road map of the injury and recovery time to show any skaters who may be starting that now or become injured in the near future that it's normal to be depressed. It hurts a lot more than you think it will. But in the end, it's all worth it if you love the sport.
Skater: Myself—Mel Breakdown (Dead Girl Derby)
Injury: Torn ACL, torn MCL, strained patellar tendon, bone bruise
Date: June 8, 2010
When I was lying on my couch post-surgery in August 2010, I knew I wouldn't be able to later really express or even remember just how miserable I was. Even remembering that thought, I can't quite get my brain to simulate the true reach of that total agony. I had myself on a four-hour cycle of getting up to use the restroom (a total nightmare that left me breathless and nearly in tears in each time), going back to sleep if I could just to ignore the misery, waking up 3.5 hours later to take the maximum painkillers the doctors had prescribed, waiting for the painkillers to kick in, and restarting the process. I drank as little water as possible to make sure I wouldn't have to use the restroom more often—it was just too awful to shift my weight to a standing position. On top of it all, I had a weird reaction to anesthesia from the procedure and couldn't keep food down for five full days without vomiting.
Two weeks I did not venture upstairs to my bedroom, but rather slept on the couch. Movies, Netflix, Internet, books and games would have kept me entertained except that, honestly, I was good and depressed. I did manage to watch Whip It within the first two days, but that may have been it. Mostly I wanted to sleep and then sleep some more.
Then there's the scarring, the stiffness, the inability to make the quad muscle work at all, countless rehab sessions, huge meltdowns crying on the floor when it's just been too much and hardly seems worth all the effort.
Fortunately for me, my knee is almost as good as new now. I've been skating post-surgery for a full year and feel really good on my feet. Sometimes I forget just how hard I had to work and persevere in the middle. I've also had to really think and come to terms with the fact that this—or an injury to another body part—could all happen again.
My family and friends are going to be horrified if that happens soon because I'm going to return to this sport again. I was lucky enough to have the best support group to get me through this, and my insurance allowed me to select fantastic health care professionals.
To help fill in the gaps that I cannot accurately describe at this time, I asked some fellow derby girls to share their experiences.
Skater: Edith Myfist (Dead Girl Derby)
Injury: Broken fibula, tibia and ankle bone
Date: November 7, 2011
Around 9:15, I landed poorly while jumping over a fallen skater during scrimmage.
Today, the pain has lessened significantly, and my outlook is better, but the road is still long. I miss my skates desperately and the relief I would get from practices.
Skater: The Big Jankowski (COMO Derby Dames)
Injury: Fractured shoulder (cracked a circle all the way around the top of the head of the humerus) and damaged rotator cuff.
Date: November 17, 2011
I'm still healing but I can at least somewhat move my arm! It has only made me more determined and I can't wait to get back on skates and push myself!
Skater: Ensane Gwen (Dead Girl Derby)
Injury: Broken distal radius (2 places), 3 broken carpals and crushed carpals down on radius and ulna
Date: September 19, 2011
I was depressed when I was broken. Sitting on the sidelines watching everyone get better was tough and I ultimately stopped going to practice because of it. I was anxious to play and I felt I was missing out connecting with some amazing women. Then came the draft. It was mixed emotion for me. I was so happy to see everyone getting their phone calls but wished so badly that they would just slide me in. The feelings of being left out just continued to get worse. Everyone was buddying up to their new teammates and I could see strong relationships forming that I longed to be apart of. I was just in limbo and I hated every part of it.
I am now cleared to skate and I have been drafted to a team to which I am thrilled! I'm still going through physical therapy, which is wretched, and my range of motion is limited, but that's the easy part. I'm trying to get over the mental aspect of protecting my wrist. I feel, because I am in "protect my wrist" mode, I am not taking the risks like I did before to advance my skills and become a better skater. I'm kind of scared to fall because now I know I can be broken. Each practice and each fall it seemingly gets a little better.
Skater: Bad Motivator #R5-D4 (Dead Girl Derby)
Injury: Tibia and fibula fracture, right leg. Metal rod inserted with four screws.
Date: November 16, 2011
This has by far been the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life. I have gone through a whole wide range of emotions but as of right now, at four weeks post-op, I feel pretty good. I'm optimistic, happy and just trying to heal so I can get back on my skates. I can't focus on the negative things or feel sorry for myself because that will just slow me down, both mentally and physically. And I don't ever want to slow down. I want to be an inspiration for everybody else out there, not someone wallowing in her own self-pity. One thing I will say, though, is that this injury has been a huge empowerment for me. I am one tough chick and I never realized this until I annihilated my leg. It's funny how bad things that happen turn your life around for the better, and this has been one of those times. I can't say I'm grateful for this, but I have been enlightened, and it's a really good feeling.
If you have any memories or advice from your own injuries, please comment!