Is Derby is too dangerous now?


I don’t skate, but I have a lot of friends who do.

And there seems to be a universal concern that the new rule (?) allowing skaters to skate backwards and block can lead to serious injuries, harm to the breasts and chest, and even concussions.

Whenever I post something about the game, I am sometimes attackekd, but when one of my best friends and a great skater for many years says she won’t skate WFTDA anymore because of the perceived danger, that is a strong indication there is something wrong (and it is not just her).

I can’t do anything about it but if you think this is a real concern, you can.

21 comments on “Is Derby is too dangerous now?

  1. The new rule set has definitely made the sport more aggressive. Which at the adult level makes the sport more entertaining. However at the junior derby level it is causing more seriously injuries. The loss of minor penalties makes the game easier to ref and removes much of the ref discretion from the game. However I think skaters ate less careful about their impact with other skaters. Although I don’t want to see the return of minor penalties something needs to change at least at the junior level.

  2. There are (apparently) more leagues who want to play like this than don’t, and that’s the problem. Every rule set approval is more and more ridiculous. The top-tier teams are setting the stage and they are playing a level of derby unattainable by the lower 200 or so, and those top-tier teams are the ones with all the clout.

    • I think the biggest issue is that the true test of the rules doesn’t come until hundreds of teams are playing it. The beta testing is a great, but there are nearly thousands of head coaches out there interpreting what they can do in advance of them passing. Believe it or not, it’s not always the top leagues whose coaches figure out what can and can’t be done. Some of the major issues we’ve faced in interpretation have come from leagues in the middle of the pack looking to grab advantage for a few games (until everyone figures it out).
      .

  3. That’s a really good point Gail. In many sports, there are modifications to the rules for lower tiers of play, and perhaps that is a future evolution of derby – teams under a certain level (Self selection?) play with some modifications geared towards safety.

    • I’ve always felt – and Jerry, I’m sure, feels the same – that if your league is not geared toward playing Division 1 WFTDA derby, set up your own conference. Get area teams together that are either non-sanctioned or realizing their goals don’t match Division1 play and set a schedule. Six to eight leagues. Play each other twice, build up to a playoff, have a conference trophy. Modify the rules any way you want if they wouldn’t be sanctioned. Just tweak them a bit, so you can still play outside of the conference if you’d like and not confuse everyone. THEN you can also pool resources…like advertising and social media blitzing. Nobody I’m aware of has done this yet, but I personally feel this will preserve the smaller leagues who cannot practice 5 days a week. Derby is fun to watch as long as the competition is similar.

  4. I like blocking backwards. Yes, I have fallen on my ass a few times but over all I haven’t harmed anyone and no one has harmed me. I think for a junior level maybe it shouldn’t be in. I think for me it is the person who flings their selves into me to block that causes the most issues.

  5. If players are playing sloppy and not training in basic skills, yes, it can get dangerous. Even basic blocking can turn into a car wreck.
    I’ve heard arguments that the game is getting lame and slow so saying the backwards skate block is dangerous is a little surprising to me.
    I think players of all levels try to immulate the moves that high level/long time skaters make. Seems to me that without breaking down the movements and practicing the execution until its a real skill it’s just body bowling.

  6. The new interpretation of “forceful” impacts to the head is also a serious concern for me. A ref can rarely tell when a skater’s brain feels the impact, so contact to the head is very, very common now and very few penalties to keep it in check. Even with a face shield, hits careening off skater’s chests into their jaws is commonplace – and these hits can cause cumulative brain damage. Combine this with the “no impact” interpretations of clockwise blocking unless a skater gets thrown off her feet backwards and I too am looking for other options to play a sport I love. I really really hope WFTDA addresses this NOW, not in 6-12 months when people start dropping our due to concussions and ABI. 😦

  7. I play hockey and roller derby. I have always felt that there is not enough professional research on safety for derby. In the hockey world, the sport has played both professionally and amateurly for many years. I can walk into a hockey store and buy safety equipment designed for the sport. Even with only 2 refs on the ice and one NSO in the box there are very few injuries during a general novice hockey season. Derby is different. Very little equipment is designed for the derby sport alone. Aside from Atom, there isn’t specific brands of derby pads to skate in and many players choose to skate with skateboard pads instead. There isn’t a specific derby-type helmet, instead there are hockey and skateboard helmets available. The rules change every year and are not perfected to prevent injuries even with more refs and NSOs on the track than skaters. I remember when concussions weren’t even taken seriously in my derby league back in 2010 and previous. This is where I feel the grassroots presence of derby hurts the players especially in a junior level. Aside from what I mentioned before, in hockey the coaches need to be certified to train children at various levels, Derby does not. I would have my child play hockey well before I would let them skate on a derby track. I would hate to see him injured over poor equipment or non-experienced trainers and unsafe rule standards.

  8. Good training, good coaching, good teamwork and I don’t see a problem with backwards blocking. To say it makes it “more” dangerous is odd to me. If the skater is concerned, then don’t block backwards. It is a tool to use not a mandatory way of skating. Derby is dangerous. Before the rules, people got hurt. It is an aggressive game on a hard surface at speed with wheels. I find that MOST people that get hurt most are the ones who are reckless, skating beyond their skill; or next to someone who is reckless and skating beyond their skill. It is that condition that things get sloppy and people get hurt more often than not.

  9. a compilation of comments here and on facebook seems to be if you are in good condition, skilled or top athlete in Roller Derby, you should be able to live with it….however for lower skills it may not be the best.

  10. i agree that there should be a different rule set for juniors. and also agree that lower skill levels will get massacred if playing against higher skill levels. but like i said on fb…before even reading this..i just watched a LOT of roller derby at the great southern slam. and there were very few injuries and a whole lot of backwards blocking. i saw two major injuries, in two separate bouts, and neither involved backwards skating.nor were they caused by wrecklessness. there were seasoned internationally classed skaters and skaters on debut in the same bouts. some of the scores were ridiculous (400-something to 3) but most were pretty close and so exciting to watch. all were played safely and without douchebaggery. i was a bit freaked out by the backwards skating thing when i first read it…but not now. i watched too many people do it successfully and know that my training will get me to that level of skill…until then, i won’t be doing it. =)

  11. I assume we’re not talking about skating backwards and blocking here, I assume we’re talking about the rule amendment that made clockwise and stopped blocking subject to the impact spectrum, ie it’s no longer a penalty unless the person you’re blocking falls or loses relative position. So I can turn around and skate anti-derby direction straight into your face, in a full frontal collision assuming the contact is legal and you don’t fall. THAT is what seems dangerous to me.

    • A lot of people are saying ‘backwards blocking’ above, which is just skating in derby direction but facing backwards, ie frontal blocking, both moving counter-clockwise around the track. What you’re talking about is one skater skating clockwise, one counter-clockwise, and the two skaters skating toward each other and making head-on contact.
      The former I don’t think is a problem, the latter I do, though if the hit is not enough to incur a penalty, then it shouldn’t be enough to do any damage. The problem I guess is when it’s misjudged and the hit DOES incur a penalty, that probably doesn’t make the person on the floor with the broken nose feel any better about it. I think it really increases the chance of poor blocks causing bad injuries, especially in the lower levels (where I firmly am and always will be).

      Thanks for raising this Jerry, I’ve been wondering if I was just being too cautious!

      • I completely agree Ruby, and that is exactly how I was injured 3 weeks ago. The person who came at me in a clockwise direction while I was skating counter clockwise knocked me backwards when I wasn’t expecting it, and then landed on top of my oddly bent knee. She didn’t mean to knock me down, it was a total accident. I’m not at all mad at her, but I am pretty freaking annoyed by the rule change that put her in the position to put me in this position. I am still off skates and in pain every day and waiting for an MRI through absolutely no fault of my own.

        Backwards skating with contact, who cares… clockwise skating with contact, no.

  12. you bring this stuff up, I simply put it out there; it is for you to evaluate and solve if there is a problem. And if any think I am trying to destroy Derby, you just don’t know me. The game must flourish and grow, but the players must be protected as much as possible.

  13. I’ve heard a lot of the same arguments that are stated about backward skating. It IS dangerous WHEN YOU DON’T DO IT CORRECTLY! Too many people coach by showing the team what they learned…though they may not know why some strategies are even used. They don’t teach. If you’re reading this and don’t know WHY you do things the team does, you just automatically do them, the coach isn’t providing the total picture. I believe the passive offense (whatever you want to call it) has the same problem. Like backward blocking, it’s an example of someone designing a situational play which people began to emulate not knowing the purpose.

    IF you skate backward and leave a gap between you and your opponent, you’re exposing an entire hit zone while in position of least control. The Orlando MIsfits were the MRDA team that, to me, gets credit for this type of blocking. They used it all of the time. BUT, they knew HOW to do it safely. You have to engage when at a shoulder-to-shoulder position, then spin and plant your shoulders into the opponent’s chest, while digging your toe stops into the ground. That gives you LEVERAGE for a killer positional block. If you have trouble executing it, you shouldn’t backward block at all.

    Somehow, what the MIsfits designed was copied half-fast by too many teams not understanding how the blocking works. If you’re skating backward, with a few feet between you and your opponent; a) Why? Seriously, where’s the advantage? b) You’re gonna take a shoulder to the sternum and, yeah, it’s gonna hurt!

    It is dangerous if it’s not executed properly. But, I suppose you could say that about everything we do. It’s not a WFTDA thing. When done correctly, it’ can be effective, it’s safe, and even fun to watch.

  14. Having (knocked on wood) played derby for 10 years now with no injuries under the MADE ruleset. I often feel that wftda is trying to defeat physics or wage war against it. In MADE we skate fast and hard but all hit at the same speed so u just bounce off eachother or when u land u slide. No bent back knees, jacked up ankles, slamming your head into the ground. The few times Ive played Wftda, I’ve had skaters slam into the back of me, fall and hyper extend my knees, and fall right on my ankles. For my own longevity, I wont play it anymore. I remember when I started under wftda it was nothing like this, its as if safety and long term bodily effects have flown out the window. Just one person’s opinion.

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