Safety is Sexy

Roller Derby is a tough sport.  It is a lot of fun, but with any contact sport the need to be safe and to use the proper safety equipment is important.  For the training sessions beginning September 4th there will be limited quantities of used equipment available for new skaters to borrow.  If you have not yet purchased your own safety equipment, plan to come early so that you can find gear and equipment that that properly fits you.

You can buy gear online through any derby supplier.  We recommend or Roller Girl Skates.  You can also talk to Stephen at Roller City.

Before You Buy, Remember... 

This is the only body you have, so you want to protect it as best you can.  Accidents happen and sometimes even the best protective equipment can't save you from injury, but good quality equipment will keep you on the track and in better shape than the cheap stuff.  You can get a simple package from a big box store to get you started, but if you stick with derby you'll end up replacing them pretty quickly.  The trick at this point is to balance cost and quality.

Look around and see what the vets are wearing.  Ask them about their experiences with different brands and ask to try things on.  What one person thinks it the perfect knee pad may not work for another.  There are a lot of swap/trade/for sale used sites for derby equipment online.  Do some research and they buy smart.  One option is Roller Derby Recyclables on Facebook.  One thing to note is that you should think twice before buying a used helmet.

A good rule of thumb when buying gear is to consider your health along with your budget.  Do you bruise easily?  Have you had a major injury in the past and therefore require a bit more support?  Are you relatively healthy?  The cost of knee surgery or repairing a broken wrist is more in the long run then buying quality protective gear to start out.

Also remember that safety gear is not intended to last forever.  Elbow pads and knee pads will stretch over time.  Buying a pair that doesn't fit snugly, will not last very long.  Buy smart from the beginning and you'll be happier in your derby career.

The Essentials
PicturePhoto courtesy of KC Derby Digest.
First, the item that protects your most important asset: the helmet.  Medical science hasn't figured out how to replace your head yet, so you need to keep yours in good shape.  There are lots of different helmet styles out there, from cheap bicycle helmets to expensive hockey helmets.  Skate helmets should meet the ASTM F1492 standard for multiple lower-impact "trick roller skating" use.  Bike helmets are not typically sufficient as they are CPSC standard for single high-impact use.  Some helmets, however, qualify for both standards.  Do some research and take the time to ensure that your helmet meets the right standard.  Some good options are Nutcase, Bern, ProTec, and Bauer hockey helmets.  

As for fit, the helmet should come down over the front of your head and the chin strap should be snug and secure.  Your helmet should not be too tight or too loose.  If your helmet is pushed back off your brow it may slide out of the way when you fall, allowing your forehead, nose or mouth to hit the floor and be injured.  The helmet should be no further than two fingers above your brow line.

Mouth Guard
Next, your mouth guard.  If you have had extensive dental work or wear braces, check with your dentist to see what they recommend you wear.  Otherwise there are a variety of products on the market.  You can get some from sporting goods stores that range in price from $10 - $60 with dental insurance if something happens to your teeth while you are wearing the product.  Walmart has inexpensive ones in their sporting goods section that work just fine for most people just starting out.  The upside is that they are cheap so you can have a spare in your skate bag just in case.  One of the most popular brands for roller derby players is SISU, which is more expensive, but comfortably small and perforated to avoid excess spit buildup.  Plus you can drink while wearing the mouth guard.  

No matter which mouth guard you choose, remember you have to form it to fit your mouth.  Don't expect to just take it out of the package and pop it in your mouth and have it fit comfortably.

Knee pads
Right now, you are going to fall on your knees.  A lot.  At every practice.  Sometimes on purpose, but more likely by accident.  Trust us, the more padding your knees have, the better protection they will offer you and the happier you will be after falling drills.  A good rule of thumb is to pinch the padding in the center of the knee plate.   If your fingers are almost touching, that is a sign of too little padding.  The more you weigh, the more important it is to have a good amount of padding to protect you when you fall.

Other things to consider are size and how they go on.  Some pads slide over your feet and up your leg, while others have straps that Velcro around.  Most have additional straps that fasten below the knee to keep them from sliding out of place.  Ask around for recommendations and try on different brands if you can.

Elbow Pads
The same advice for knees applies to eblow pads.  Although we don't purposely fall on our elbows, you want a reasonable amount of padding and plate to protect you for those unexpected times when you can't avoid landing on them.

Wrist Guards
There are many different styles of wrist guard to choose from, so long as they offer the proper protection, it is really up to your personal preference.  Some have a plastic guard held in place by 2 Velcro straps while others fully encase your wrist and offer thick plastic cups on the palm of your hands.  The main thing is to make sure they fit you snugly and will keep your wrist from hyper-extending or (worse case scenario) allowing your wrist to break if you hit the floor.  If the plastic flexes or you have too much wiggle room, they will not protect you when you need it.  If you are smaller, you may need to buy children's sizes to get them to fit correctly.

Optional Gear
Knee Gaskets

If you've had knee issues in the past, you will probably want to invest in added protection there.  Gaskets are worn under the regular knee pad, provide additional layer of padding and compression, and help keep the knee pad from slipping.

Tailbone Pads
Also called crash pads.  Ideally, a roller derby skater falls forward to make use of their knee pads, or chooses a side to fall on if falling backwards.  A fall straight backward can mean tailbone trauma.  Skate suppliers offer protection for the tailbone in the form of a clip-on pad to the back of the shorts, or a pair of padded shorts to wear over/under regular practice/game clothing.

When it comes to gear, just remember to choose wisely and that safety is sexy!

Adapted with love from an article by Dead Girl Derby

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