Roller Derby Stretches and Flexibility Exercises

Roller Derby stretching exercises to improve your performance and do away with roller derby injuries.

by Brad Walker | First Published November 21, 2010 | Updated August 14, 2017

Roller Derby Stretches and Flexibility ExercisesRoller derby was originally created in the 1930’s by Leo Seltzer at the Coliseum in Chicago. It was more like a marathon race and not just skate dancing at the local rink. Skating marathons did catch on and competitions opened up across the United States.

Roller derby matches were first televised in the 1940’s. During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, televised roller derby was the most popular entertainment on television.

Roller derby today is comprised of mostly all-girl teams who have taken the sport to a whole new level. In the high speed Roller derby match, lap after lap, points are given for each member of the opposing team you lap. There are five girls to a side: four “Blockers” whose job it is to delay and block their opponents so that the “Jammer” can score points by lapping the other team’s blockers.

The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association promotes the sport and stages charitable expositions as well as competitive seasons.

Anatomy Involved

As with all skating activities, the majority of the muscles and joints used in this sport are all in the legs. From the ankle to the hip, all the impetus used to gather speed on the track is supplied from the feet up.

The stability you will need as you spin around the track during play is provided by your core (the abdominal and lower back muscles), starting with the transverse abdominus. While the core provides stability, the muscles that begin at the hips strive to give you your forward momentum.

The gluteus muscles (buttocks) tighten as the quadriceps help your knees push off with every stroke of your skates. The hamstrings provide strength and stamina for your ankles, keeping them taut and balanced as you fly through the curves of the arena.

During play, in the rough and tumble contact that is at the heart of roller derby action, your elbows come into play, utilizing your biceps and triceps to block and push off against your opponent.

Most Common Roller Derby Injuries

Roller Derby Stretching ExercisesBecause the sport of roller derby has been likened by some commentators as “football on wheels,” you can expect to see more than just bumps and bruises as a result of rough play. Even with the best in safety equipment, injuries can, and do happen to the best of us, even the queens of the roller rink.

The first obvious risk of injury in this sport is falling. The speeds the skaters reach require wheels that grip the wooden planking securely; however, wax is regularly applied to ensure that they do not stick. Accidents happen, and if a skater hits a dry spot or a spot that has too much wax, they will stumble and fall. Helmets, elbow and knee pads can only protect so much, so scrapes and cuts will happen or worse, broken noses, teeth or concussions from hitting the wooden floor or concrete middle.

Another potential danger is overworked or stressed out muscles, tendons and ligaments. This sport requires its players to be very flexible and fast, so their muscles can be overworked through too much play or practice. The possibility of strained quadriceps and hamstrings is the most commonplace injury, with torn ACL’s and twisted or sprained ankles coming in a close second.

The upper half of the body is not spared either, because elbows and shoulders are used constantly during play. Repetitive stress injuries of the muscles and tendons from the wrist to the shoulder are always possible, especially the rotator cuff and the carpal tunnel of the wrist. Because some plays require one member to be propelled ahead of the rest, the arm that is grabbed by teammates to whip that player forward is always at risk of muscle strain or even dislocation if too much force is used.

Injury Prevention Strategies

Some factors, such as track conditions will always be out of the control of team members and managers, however, as players, you can control what happens to you by being prepared to play properly, starting with the amount of practice sessions. It is true that athletes need to be at the top of their game at all times but the additional stress from too much practice puts unnecessary risk on the body as a whole, making you more prone to getting injured.

The two main types of injuries you can prevent from cutting down on practice schedules are repetitive stress injuries and fatigue-related injuries. Try and schedule rest days between practice or exercise sessions. Tired muscles and a tired body are not a good combination for competitions. Fatigue makes you sloppy and being sloppy gets you hurt. If you do work out between practices, try and work only on those muscles not used during competition; the only concession being the core muscles, which can always use good conditioning.

The best thing that you can do to prevent injuries during roller derby is to use the best safety equipment that you can. Elbow and knee pads, wrist braces, helmets, mouth guards and well fitting skates are vital to preventing sprains, strains and broken bones out on the track. Make sure that your skates are in good condition, especially the wheels. All padding needs to be checked regularly for wear, and always make sure that your helmet fits securely at all times.

Other than scheduling some rest time and using the right safety equipment, there are some basic safety rules that you can adapt to lower the risk of injuries during roller derby.

  • Utilize proper exercise and strength training for good physical conditioning, especially strengthening the muscles mentioned above.
  • Always warm-up properly (including practice skating) prior to play.
  • Allow an adequate cool-down period and perform after-game stretching.

The Top 3 Roller Derby Stretches

Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective. Below are 3 very beneficial stretches for roller derby; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions below each stretch.

Roller derby lower back and core stretch

Lying Knee Roll-over Stretch: While lying on your back, bend your knees and let them fall to one side. Keep your arms out to the side and let your back and hips rotate with your knees.

Roller derby hip and quad stretch

Kneeling Upper Hip & Quad Stretch: Kneel on one foot and the other knee. If needed, hold on to something to keep your balance and then push your hips forward.

Roller derby lower calf and Achilles stretch

Standing Toe-up Achilles Stretch: Stand upright and place the ball of your foot onto a step or raised object. Bend your knee and lean forward.

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Get back to the activities you love. Whether it’s enjoying your favorite sport, or walking the dog, or playing with the grand kids. Imagine getting out of bed in the morning with a spring in your step. Or being able to work in the garden or play your favorite sport without “paying-for-it” the next day.

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Brad Walker - AKA The Stretch CoachAbout the Author: Brad is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 100's of testimonials. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.

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