Athlete Intelligence Blog


3/28/18 8:04 AM / by Athlete Intelligence



March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. Brain injuries can be hard to diagnose, treat, and recover from, often leading the affected person to feel isolated and depressed. This year’s theme, the Change Your Mind campaign, provides a platform for educating the general public about the incidence of brain injury and the needs of people with brain injuries and their families. The campaign also lends itself to outreach within the brain injury community to de-stigmatize the injury, empower those who have survived, and promote the many types of support that are available.

As part of Athlete Intelligence's commitment to traumatic brain injury awareness, we will using our platform to interview athletes, advocates, coaches and health care professionals throughout the sports industry to share their experiences with brain injuries.

Today, we're interviewing Rachel Tension, a skater at the Queen City Roller Girls.


Tell us about Queen City Roller Girls, how long have you been skating?

QCRG is Buffalo's flat track roller derby league.  It was founded in 2006 by Sissy Fit (still active as a ref) and Flotorious (retired). I've been involved in the league for 10 years but only actively competing for 8. I took 2 years off due to an ankle injury.
Roller Derby is a full-contact sport. What is it that excites you about it? 
Being full contact is only a small part of what excites me about roller derby. There are so many other levels to it...the athleticism,  the camaraderie, the community,  the multiple levels of acceptance and the encouragement to be who you are. 
How concerned are you about the skaters you coach receiving sports-related injuries?
Extremely. Its hard when working with adults but is even more concerning when you work with the Jr's. (ages 10 to 18). Yes they will probably bunch back faster than the adults but they are kids. In either case of someone goes down and stays down for more than 3 seconds all action is stopped to make sure they're ok. 
Roller Derby allows skaters to play one of three different positions: Pivot, Blocker and Jammer. What position do you find receiving the most injuries?
You would think that it would be the jammer because they are bounced around and slammed into all the time but it's been my experience that blockers are hurt more often.  It could just be due to the ratio. There are 2 jammers on the track at a time and up to 8 blockers. (I'm including pivots because they are just blockers with a striped helmet cover) 
Have you or anyone close to you ever had a concussion or other skater-related head injury?
I've had a mild concussion and I've had a number of friends receive them over the years. I know of 2 people who received concussions that were severe enough to end their derby career
What is your typical protocol handling a concussion? Do the Queen City Roller Girls have a standard 'Return to Play Protocol'?
We always have a safety officer (someone with first responder training) at every practice and there is always a trainer and an EMT at every bout. If someone was to hit their head or was suspected to have a concussion the safety personnel would not allow them to continue to skate the remainder of the practice/ bout. They would then need to be seen by a doctor to assess how long before they are cleared to skate again. 
What are some of the ways you address the topic of sports safety, especially concussion prevention and awareness, with the athletes you coach?
We have a great relationship with UBOrtho. They come in annually and speak with us and constantly provide up to date literature. They also help us get our concussion base line testing regularly updated. 
Do you find the concussions and sports-related brain injuries are misunderstood? What do you you think Roller Derby could be doing more of to prevent sports-related brain injuries?
I think they were very misunderstood even as little as 10 years ago.  But I think as time moves on, all contact sports are becoming more aware of them and how to handle them. Education and patience is the key. The more we know about not only causes but the ramifications of concussions the better we will be. We also need to be patient. We all want to get back out there and play the sport we love but we have got to learn to take the time to let our body fully heal. A player at 100% is much more effective (and safer) than one at 80%
When did you first become aware of the dangers of sports-related brain injuries? 
I believe it was my second year in derby. It was the first time we had someone come to practice, sit us down and talk about brain injuries. I thought it was a derby thing. It wasn't until few years later it was starting to get talked about more in mainstream.
Are you seeking more tools, resources and information in regards to head injury detection and prevention?
We're always seeking more info.  Like I said education is one of the keys
Do you feel like Brain Injuries are overlooked or stigmatized in our society?
 I used to, but not so much anymore. I think it's starting to be much more recognized and accepted as a serious injury and not just something you tell someone to walk (or skate) off.
Our thanks to the Queen City Roller Girls and Rachel Tension for taking the time to talk with us. If you would like to learn more about the Queen City Roller Girls -- Buffalo's premier roller derby league -- be sure to follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For a full schedule of events, visit: 


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Topics: Roller Derby, Brain Injury Awareness