Roller Derby Protection - Buying Guide
Roller derby is high'adrenaline and high'impact. Literally. You and the floor will become well-
acquainted. You and other people's bodies will be even better friends. Your skin will becomeﾠ
mottled from the black and blue kisses of collision, and you will love every second.ﾠ
Despite the inherently extreme nature of derby, it is not reckless. Every league will go aboveﾠ
and beyond to ensure that the team practices as safely as possible, with particular emphasis onﾠ
A helmet and mouthguard, as well as wrist, knee and elbow guards are compulsory if you wishﾠ
to participate in a roller derby session. Although you could get by with the bog standard ofﾠ
everything, it's in your best interest to invest whatever you can into your protection. You can'tﾠ
throw yourself into training if you constantly worry about hurting yourself, so pad up not only toﾠ
prevent injury, but to ward off any paranoia. Nobody ever brought their A'game while worryingﾠ
about cracking their knee on the sports tile, so don't be afraid to over'compensate (chances are,ﾠ
you won't be).
Helmets 101: No matter what it is, make sure that it FITS. No matter how technically impressiveﾠ
a helmet is, it is still absolutely useless if it doesn't fit properly.
Here's some tips:
' Make sure the helmet is secured around your forehead and temples, and cannot be pushedﾠ
backwards, upwards or side'to'side. It may move slightly, but not actually fall away from thatﾠ
area. If you lean forward and put your head towards your knees, it also shouldn't fall off.
' You'll be wearing your helmet for hours at time. If it's so tight that it's uncomfortable, don't beﾠ
afraid to go a size bigger.
' If your helmet doesn't stipulate that it's ﾑmulti impact', it will only last for ONE hit. Then it willﾠ
need to be replaced. The shell will hide any visible signs of defect, and any kind of defect couldﾠ
severely compromise the helmet's safety. Head injuries can kill, so don't take chances. For thisﾠ
reason, a multi'impact helmet is recommended. It will still need replacing after any significantﾠ
hits, ﾠbut is likely to withstand minor bumps a little better. S1 is pretty much the go'to multi-
impact derby helmet.
Most mouthguards seem to offer fairly equal protection in derby, but comfort is a massiveﾠ
deciding factor. A regular mouthguard from a sports shop is pretty sure to keep your teeth inﾠ
your gums, but will be a pain in the butt to drink, breathe or shout at your teammates. As with allﾠ
derby kit, wearing something that's comfortable is bound to trump any priority for being cheap inﾠ
the long run. The recommended mouthguard by a country mile is SISU. It's the mostﾠ
comfortable by far and doesn't compromise any protection. No need to be too confused over theﾠ
two sizes, either (1.6 and 2.4). This relates to thickness and, generally speaking, a 1.6 is plentyﾠ
thick enough when impact is likely to come from an elbow, as opposed to a flying hockey puck.ﾠ
You may want to go for the thicker option if you tend to chew through your mouthguards, thoughﾠ
(it happens for some).ﾠ
Whereas head and mouth knocks tend to only be occasional, landing on your knees will beﾠ
CONSTANT, from day one. When it comes to falling on your tailbone and taking a knee, youﾠ
best believe you'll want to take a knee. Out of all your protection, this will be the one to invest inﾠ
from the earliest opportunity. The ﾑcombo packs' of protection that are on the market are unlikelyﾠ
to do anything for you in the knee department. You should purchase them individually, try themﾠ
for size and make sure they're comfortable.
Smith Scabs have been a long'standing favourite with derby skaters. They are relatively low-
profile and offer excellent protection, but the sizes are quite restrictive. It's stronglyﾠ
recommended that you purchase knee gaskets on top, to fill out any gaps and keep the pad inﾠ
187 Pro Derby pads offer unrivalled protection, but be cautious if you're a newbie. The size ofﾠ
the pad (although important, protection'wise), can cause an obstruction when learning variousﾠ
skills. They're certainly recommended for derby, but possibly not for the first 6 months whenﾠ
you're just starting out. The 187 Fly kneepad is a good option that still offers excellent protectionﾠ
without all the bulk.
TSG is fast becoming a top brand for derby protection and a real skater favourite. The TSGﾠ
Roller Derby 2.0 is ideal for skaters at any level, with a super low profile and excellentﾠ
protection. The TSG Force 3 and Force 3 D30 are more aimed at the professional market, butﾠ
remain impressively low'profile. So, there's no real harm in investing in them at rookie level, ifﾠ
you feel the urge.
Although not quite as critical as kneepads, your wrists take a lot of flack from falls and canﾠ
easily break or sprain if not protected. Fortunately, a quality wristguard need not cost more thanﾠ
ﾣ30, so it's pretty convenient to upgrade, if needed.
The important thing to remember with wristguards is that they MUST have a solid splint from theﾠ
palm, down the wrist. If there's a splint on the back, too, then that's even better. The splintsﾠ
keep your wrist in place and stop them bending backwards when you hit the deck... That's good.ﾠ
Wrists that migrate are BAD, very bad.ﾠ
Look to the same brands that make quality kneepads in order to find good wrist protection. TSG,ﾠ
187, Smith and Triple 8 all produce wristguards with solid splints that will do the job nicely.
Elbows probably take the least amount of punishment in a derby setting, purely because they'reﾠ
one of the last places to take the impact when you fall. They need protecting, but not to theﾠ
extent of the rest of your body and you can therefore get away with investing the least in these.ﾠ
It's advisable to go for something low'profile, purely so they don't get in your way or jab otherﾠ
people in the face. No need to spend the earth ' about ﾣ20 will do, unless you're feeling flashy.ﾠ
Something basic like the Anarchy brand will do the trick, but you can always spend that bit extraﾠ
on Smith, 187 or TSG if you feel that you'd benefit from that bit of extra protection.ﾠ
Knee gaskets aren't compulsory kit, but are extremely useful and worth considering if you haveﾠ
the budget to spare. These handy pieces of neoprene will cover and compress the knee,ﾠ
keeping your patella nice and protected, while also helping to fill out the cap on your kneepad.ﾠ
By filling any excess gaps in the kneepad, they also stop it from turning or twisting away fromﾠ
your knee, ensuring that the kneepad is performing at its best.