Players must wear a helmet, elbow pads, wrist guards and knee pads. They must also use a mouth guard.

Photo courtesy Frank Mullen / The Atlanta Rollergirls

Safety

Roller derby bouts involve fast skating and lots of blocking, so it's not surprising that players can get hurt. A lot of players wear their injuries with pride, and several leagues have photo albums documenting injuries on their web pages. These albums usually feature pictures of large bruises and "fishnet burn" -- a stippled effect that comes from falling while wearing fishnet hose. But among the bumps, bruises and scrapes are pictures and X-rays of severe sprains, broken bones and dislocated joints. The Atlanta Rollergirls we interviewed described contusions, split chins, soft tissue injuries and broken bones.

A lot of skaters return to the derby as soon as possible after recovering from an injury. For example, Susan B. Agony continues to play after multiple injuries, "I have broken my tailbone twice and had a severe contusion underneath my patella. The tailbone injuries had me out, I couldn't skate, I couldn't do much of anything. It was very frustrating for me, but as soon as I got the medical go-ahead I was back out there. Now I wear crash pads on my butt."

Players protect themselves first with proper skating technique. They fall deliberately during practice to rehearse how to fall correctly and recover quickly, reducing the chance of becoming a hazard to other skaters. Eventually, falling safely becomes second nature.

Players also wear safety gear. In most leagues, helmets, mouth guards, wrist guards, elbow pads and knee pads are required during practice and competition. Other padding, like hip and tailbone pads, is optional.

Most players express a devotion to the sport that keeps them involved in spite of the risk of serious injury. Big Red explains, "I don't know anybody out here who doesn't just absolutely love it."

Follow the links on the next page for lots more information about roller skating and roller derby.