Roller Derby? Been there, done that, broke my elbow.

It had me at “great butt.” I’m not gonna lie. I didn’t think it through very well.  Usually I’m so careful. This time I was blinded by the cute helmet, fun stockings and seemingly endless outfit combinations.  And the idea of female empowerment and general badass-ery didn’t hurt either.  But the broken elbow sure did.

Let me back up a minute.  It began when my friend B told me she had registered for Derby Lite.  I was in. Two hours of roller skating every Saturday? 700 calories burned per hour? People would be bouncing quarters off my ass in no time. (Where did that saying come from? Who wants to do that anyway?) Nevermind, I don’t want to know. I registered for the beginners class the next day.

I had to miss the first class due to a work trip to Las Vegas. The class leader assured me that it was OK, they would just be distributing equipment and doing some beginner drills. They could bring me up to speed (literally) during the next class.  What they didn’t tell me was that they would teach us how to fall properly, a life skill I clearly hadn’t mastered.

I, or should I say “Olive Trouble” (my derby name), left my apartment at 7 a.m. in order to take the bus the 67 stops through the west side of Chicago to the roller rink. (Seriously, I counted.)  I had my water bottle, helmet, and “crash pads” consisting of wrist guards, elbow pads, knee pads, etc.  Upon arrival, I picked up my roller skates. I had advised them the previous week of my freakishly large feet and they assured me they could accommodate my Bigfoot-sized tootsies.

From the moment I took my first Bambi-like steps, I knew this was a bad idea.  First off, I received my mouth guard that morning and therefore didn’t have the chance to boil it to fit my mouth.  (I have a child-sized mouth, hard to believe but it’s true, just ask my dentist.)  So the oversized mouth guard immediately activated my gag reflex.  Not a pretty picture.  A lot of lurching and heaving.  And falling.  Mustn’t forget the falling.

The beginner training was to take place in the middle of the rink.  If only I could get there.  All the other “beginners” were whipping past me.  My tatted-up instructor was very patient, but kept asking me to practice falling forward.  “I can’t control it,” I tried to say as I choked on my mouth guard and fell backward for the upteenth time.  The last time I was on skates I was 12 at the Mundelein roller rink jamming to UB40’s “Red Red Wine” – my center of gravity had changed somewhat in the 22 years since then.

When it became painfully clear that I couldn’t control myself on wheels, my instructor gave me butt pads to protect my tailbone.  They smelled like they’d never been washed, which didn’t help with the whole gag reflex problem.  But at least they did their job.  So I continued to “practice” falling, although it was pretty much just gravity doing its thing.  On one particular backwards fall, I reached out sideways to try to catch myself and felt a crunch, then a shooting pain up my arm.  I thought I’d sprained my wrist.  My instructor rolled over and told me to keep falling. “You can do it! You’re almost there!” she encouraged me.  I tried a few more times but couldn’t bear any weight on my arm.  I had to scoot myself across the rink like a small child or a dog wiping its ass on the carpet.  It was absolutely mortifying, but I was in so much pain, and all I wanted to do was remove the smelly butt pads with my non-defective arm.

One of the leaders gave me an ice pack and asked what happened.  She dropped down to examine my skates and exclaimed, “Oh! That’s the problem. They were two sizes too big!  No wonder you couldn’t skate.”  She told me they’d swap them out for smaller ones next week.  She handed me an ice pack.

I was a hot and sweaty mess.  I couldn’t raise my arm up to brush my hair or fix my ponytail.  I waited for my friend so we could go to brunch after practice like we’d planned.   B skated off the rink and we shuffled to the bus stop.  I should say I shuffled.  She walked normally.  She assured me next week would be much better.

We were on the bus for 40 minutes until we arrived at a Vegan restaurant.  I have never been to a Vegan restaurant in my life.  I wanted pancakes.  And carbs.  That wasn’t going to happen.  I ordered tofu pizza.  As we sat waiting for our food to arrive, my arm kept twitching.  Pain was shooting up and down my arm.  I told B that something was wrong with my arm, gesturing with my non-twitchy arm.  B said something to the effect of, “Nothing’s wrong, it just means your nerves are alive! Isn’t that great?”  Um, no….I’m not a doctor but I’m pretty sure that’s not what that means.

We said goodbye and I headed home to take a shower because I had a massage appointment that afternoon.  Yes, you read that right.  I had a massage appointment.  And it was one of those deals that you had to give your credit card and cancel at least 24 hours in advance or else they’d charge you for the service.  I wasn’t about to pay for something I didn’t get to enjoy, so I sucked it up.  I showered rather pathetically because I couldn’t lift my arm.  Every part of my body throbbed and was sore.  I had never been more uncomfortable in my life, but I didn’t want to subject some unsuspecting masseuse to my smelly body.  That’s right, I’m a giver.

I went to my appointment and asked the masseuse to avoid my right arm and side as I had fallen earlier that day and it was really sore.  Of course, she grabbed my right arm to lead me back to the treatment rooms.  I almost bit her.

After the service, I walked to Walgreens to buy some Advil and then to the ER for an x-ray. By this time, I couldn’t tell where the pain was coming from, so the x-ray technician had to x-ray my entire right arm, from fingertips to shoulder.  “What happened?” the x-ray tech asked.  I told her.  Turns out they usually see these types of injuries in children.  Lovely.  I am escorted back to my ER bed to wait for the doctor.

When he arrived in the room, he’s like, “Oh, so you’re the Derby Girl.  I’ve heard about you.”  Great.  Yes, I am the Derby Girl who managed to break my arm without making one full rotation around the rink.  I’m that girl.  He informed me that I had a radial neck fracture.  I immediately started freaking out, thinking I’d broken my neck.  Relax, it’s your elbow, he told me. He prescribed me some really strong drugs and sent me home.  No cast, no physical therapy, no more skating.

I have to admit, I was pretty relieved that I didn’t have to get up super early every Saturday and gag my way around the rink all summer long.  It really wasn’t my best look.  But I did get a sweet Halloween costume out of the deal.



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