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 The Poison Apple, a skater at the Boston Roller Derby.
Tell us about Boston Roller Derby; how long have you been skating?
I've been skating for three years. I had ice skated since I was very little, but I had never even touched roller skates until I decided to play derby at the age of 23. I skated in New Hampshire for about two years, then took some time off to focus on competitive powerlifting. Some old friends convinced me to return, and now I'm skating with Boston.
Boston Roller Derby is Boston's premier flat-track roller derby league. What is it that you think excites people about the sport?
I really think it's the sport that everyone can get excited about. It's action-packed, powered by women of all shapes and sizes, and it has just the right amount of theatrics. People love that we train and practice like serious athletes, but we're not afraid to have a little fun. Yes, we are serious athletes who cross train and consistently try to better ourselves. At the end of the day, however, we're doing this for fun.
How concerned are you about the skaters you play receiving sports-related injuries?
I'm always concerned. I've seen people break and tear various body parts during games, and I've watched them recover over time. I also know people who have slipped in the shower and broken ribs. Injuries are a part of life, you just have to treat them appropriately.
Roller Derby allows skaters to play one of three different positions: Pivot, Blocker and Jammer. What position do you find receiving the most injuries?
Having played all positions, I think the jammers assume the greatest risk. The position requires them to be bounced between people like a pinball. They are targeted by all the other players in either an offensive or defensive way, and someone is always going after them.
Have you or anyone close to you ever had a concussion or other skater-related head injury?
I received a concussion in 2014 when I was skating with my old league. I was jamming during a scrimmage when my legs were knocked out from under me, and my (thankfully helmeted) head hit the concrete. I felt like a cartoon, because I was seeing stars and just felt completely stunned. I had to just lay there and wait for everything to settle down.
What is your typical protocol handling a concussion? Does the Boston Roller Derby have a standard 'Return to Play Protocol'?
I'm honestly not sure what the specific policy for Boston is. When I received my concussion with my old league, it was recommended that I see my doctor, but I continued to play during that night's scrimmage. One of my teammates got a concussion a few weeks ago. She was immediately taken out of play, and we wouldn't even let her drive home that night.
When did you first become aware of the dangers of sports-related brain injuries?
I'm a documentary nerd, so I watched a PBS Frontline special about Dr. Omalu and his research. I later saw the movie Concussion. I never fully understood what a concussion was until that point. I don't think many people fully comprehended the severity of concussions until that point. As I mentioned, I think they were really seen as just another playground injury.
Do you feel like Brain Injuries are overlooked or stigmatized in our society?
I think they were for a long time, but that's starting to turn around. I remember having elementary school classmates get concussions after school and getting right back to recess. It was equivalent to a skinned knee. Now, as a teacher, I see posters in schools all the time about the warning signs of a concussion and what to do. It's finally being treated like the serious injury that it is.
Our thanks to Boston Roller Derby and Crueliette Lewis for taking the time to talk with us. If you would like to learn more about Boston Roller Derby -- Boston's premier roller derby league -- be sure to follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For a full schedule of events, visit: bostonrollerderby.com/schedule
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