Up Close And Personal Fox Sake by Jason Ruffel (Roller Derby on Film)

Published on August 30th, 2013 | by Fox Sake


Fox Sake by Jason Ruffel (Roller Derby on Film)

On Coming Back

I can skate. I can’t skate.

I’ve played roller derby for the past six years. For the last couple of years I’ve been hot and cold about it. At some point it just stopped being fun. I’ve tried to retire a few times but always came to the conclusion that it’s too much a part of me, too much who I am. I couldn’t voluntarily walk away. And so I didn’t.

Fifteen weeks ago, I’m jamming for my home team in our season championship bout. I’m slipping past the pack at the start of the turn, my team’s solid front wall holding the other jammer. She lunges at me, and I jump towards the apex, and I feel my right ankle snap. I know it’s broken before I hit the floor. I’m in remarkably good spirits at the time, probably due to the prompt presence of medical staff and a canister of nitrous oxide. I joke about being glad I didn’t make the travel team squad this time round, because missing two WFTDA playoff tournaments out of three with injuries would have been too much to take. The crowd and my teammates chant my name as I am wheeled to the ambulance on a stretcher, and I’m thankful again that I broke at a bout and not a practice.

Tib, fib, dislocation. Open reduction and fixation. My ankle is put back together with pins and plates, and I’m grateful for a civilised and socialised health care system. At home, the first day out of hospital, I’m still so stuffed with painkillers that I barely notice when I drop a heavy catalogue on my good foot and break a toe. I strap it back into place and carry on.

The day before my break, I find out I am being made redundant. Ten days or so after, still in my surgical cast, I drag myself to an interview. Sweatpants, crutches and purple hair. I get the job. I carry on. My friends come round and draw pictures on my cast that I have to cover up in polite company, and I love them for it. I go to New York, to ECDX, in an air cast, still on crutches. I discover that a perk of being broken is getting to skip the queues for immigration and the ridiculous cab line at JFK. I wonder if it’s worth it. At ECDX at least three people show me their ankle scars. There are others on crutches, in casts. We nod at each other. We know. We carry on.

Back home, I stay up til 4am to watch my leaguemates, my friends, take on and beat Rat City and I nearly burst with pride. My recovery progress is good and I’m cleared for full weight bearing, to get rid of the crutches, to get rid of the boot. I go to physio. I go to the gym. It feels good to move again, though my ankle swells and my balance is shot and just walking still hurts.

And now. What now?

What now, after fifteen weeks of no skating, no regular practice routine, no evenings taken up with derby, a taste of freedom? I’m having to deal with all the reasons I never quit anyway. I’m needing to re-evaluate myself, to figure out who I am if I’m not a derby girl. I’m no longer scared of losing my place on my teams – I don’t have one to lose any more. I still can’t skate. I miss it desperately. But can I put myself through another break? And there are so many other things I could do, especially in a city like London.

The choice has become not whether to retire but whether to rededicate myself to derby, and somehow that’s a much harder choice to make.

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Fox Sake is a geek-of-all-trades and has skated with London Rollergirls since 2007. She likes cats, blinkenlights, and dicking about on the internet.

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About the Author

Fox Sake is a geek-of-all-trades and has skated with London Rollergirls since 2007. She likes cats, blinkenlights, and dicking about on the internet.

  • daisyrage

    Totally with you.

  • denise hahn

    I am 8 weeks post surgery, similar injury. I admire your courage for saying your not sure about coming back. I am afraid to tell anyone except my husband that I am questioning my return as I am sure it will be met with tons of pressure and stories about conquering your fears and getting back on the horse. It’s so much more than that and I think only someone who has been through it truly understands. The emotional scars from this injury run way deeper than the physical ones. Of course I can get my body back in great condition, but fear of re-injury can cause that very thing to happen. I know I will get back in skates- I grew up skating and it will always be part of my life- but what derby looks like for me, I am unsure.

  • Taboomolly

    I am living this right now in so many ways. Thank you for articulating this strange place to be in.

  • puscifer3

    Glad to know I’m not the only person that feels like this, the pain of an injury and recovery I can somedays cope with, but it is the mental/emotional side that no one tells you about :(
    I broke my clavicle last November at training, involving my team mate and a brick wall…and finally got a metal plate put in nearly 3 months ago.
    The thought of not playing derby again scares me to death… But so does loosing another year of my life if it happens again…. It’s a tricky one. Hard to explain it to people who haven’t been thru it, eh.

  • Lindsey Hills

    I had a pretty much identical injury in Jan 2012 (though mine happened at practice). My recovery from the injury (both physical and mental) was a very long process and I was finally getting there and at a point where I was about to get back in skates in April this year. And then my hardware started causing complications. I saw a specialist and he advised having my plate and screws out as they were damaging my tendon. I had them out five weeks ago. I’ve had to go through pain and recovery again (albeit a lot shorter) and physio again. In a weeks time I’m allowed to start exercising again (as the holes should be filled in by then). And in another two months I will be cleared to play contact sports again. So almost 2 years after the initial injury. My dilemma, much like yours, is – is it worth it? I’m (comparatively) older than my league mates by 10+ years and self-employed doing a job that requires me to be on my feet most of the day. I do miss skating, but I’m not sure I miss it enough to risk going through this, and putting my family through this, again. The issue is I was intending to retire at the end of 2012 anyway, but the injury kind of took that decision away from me. In a twisted way I feel like I should retire on my own terms, which would mean going back for one last hurrah.

  • starryeyed6

    wow, I have never had an accident, I’ve been in roller derby since year and a half now. I’ve seen many people in my league had accidents that require surgery, and just the thought of that scares me to death, I admire you all, derby has become a way of life for me and I wouldn’t know what to do if something like that happens to me, reading stuff like these encourages me to be a better skater, and knowing that accidents can happen but you are there no matter what. I really admire all of you :)

  • Bucy

    My husband broke his ankle playing derby a few months ago – we were both in FM – i kept skating, just because my family (aka my mammy) told me to stop – i’m a stubborn soul. Just as I was about to start FM again, 2 girls in the league broke their ankles…..i panicked. I know it wasn’t my ankle but seeing the pain my husband is in and both of us having to miss out on so many things and having to constantly factor it into all our everyday lives…i dont’ think i could go through this again so i took the heart breaking decision to quit – i am gutted and i do really miss it, but i couldn’t do this again. So now we need a new obsession…baby time!!!

  • Belinda Johnson

    Totally with you Fox. I broke my fibula in late 2011 during a drill and ever since I’ve been struggling with the idea of coming back. My injury really screwed up my life for so long that I do worry that derby is worth going through all that again for. Weirdly the things I thought I’d miss I don’t (the community) and the things I thought would be more difficult I miss the most (actually skating). For the year and a half I played derby it was a huge part of my life. I bored friends with it. I did the usual. Now I’m not hearing about wheel durometers and dealing with clique-y nonsense, I feel a lot more free to do what I want to do. I don’t half miss playing though.. maybe I need to take up another sport, but I doubt there’s anything quite as cool. UGHHH.

  • Gunmoll Mindy

    😉 I was at that Rat City game (in a cast and wheelchair) with my Sexpos. It was an amazing double header to watch! I just started skating again three weeks ago after a break + open reduction in May. This will be my sixth full season. I know how you feel. I want to quit. I probably should quit. Then I don’t want to quit. Then there’s no way I could. I think I just can’t go out like that. I’m going out on my terms. I was the latest in a string of leg breaks in our league so I feel lucky (if you can call it that) to see others who have done the same thing and have come back, with out a terrible amount of complications. They told me what to expect, what worked for them, what didn’t. It took a lot of the fear away. Best of luck to you whatever you decide. 😉 Life’s too short to wonder what if (and that goes both for derby and that wide world outside of it)!

  • callie

    I’m in the same place. I’m 5 weeks into a bad fibula break with surgery and all that. I know there’s stilll a long time until I have to decide, but I am leaning towards hanging up my skates. I feel that I’ll miss the community, but it hasn’t been there for me as much as I would have hoped. I’m sure part of that is probably my fault – you don’t get what you don’t ask for. But what it boils down to, is could I put myself and my family throught this again? It’s such a huge disruption and really a year of your life. There are only so many years. But then what will I replace it with? *sigh*

  • http://www.londonrollergirls.com Fox Sake

    Thanks for all the comments and messages. It’s really good to know that I’m not the only one feeling like this!

  • Erin Cox

    I just injured my fibula and ligaments and whatnot and I’m in the middle of going through the motions of post-op “keeping your foot up” fun, but really the whole pt, getting strength back part is what I find daunting….

  • Pingback: Baby, I Don’t Care | purplegraze()

  • Liza Perez

    I totally feel you. I was out for 4 months with only a stretched acl and mcl (not even broken bones) and had to take a couple months off for a twisted ankle (injuries years apart from each other but both due to derby). I think the best thing is to just be prepared for the next time it happens (hopefully, it doesn’t). I do remember my first injury and being away from derby and how depressing it was. The second time I had to take off due to an injury I took advantage of the time to see friends and family I don’t ever see because of the time that, “I can’t, I have derby.” hehe and also just enjoying the time to relax and take it easy. Sometimes the universe has to do drastic things, like break us, so that we STOP moving and see whats really going on around us and force us to face ourselves for a lil bit. But you’ll be back, they always come back. 😉
    Healing thoughts your way!
    ChiChi LaBang!

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