Wrist Hist(ory): I have broken my left wrist 3 separate times in different locations, and each time due to roller blading. The first time I was 10, the second time I was 13 and the third time I was 18. Every time I was not wearing wrist protection. It took me twice to learn my lesson and by the time I was 18 I had made wearing wrist guards a regular practice and had literally failed to remember to wear them that day. Now I NEVER forget to wear my wrist guards. Not surprisingly, I have some opinions on wrist protection. Number one is obvious; always wear your wrist guards. I have formed some conclusions on what makes a good wrist guard and what makes a bad wrist guard and compiled them here for you.
For my first four years of roller derby I skated with a set of children’s pads from a brand called UltraWheels that I got in a pack from Costco when I was 21. I skated hard, fast and rough with them and they served me well. When I decided to replace them about a year ago it was not because they had worn out, but because I had been receiving pressure and teasing from fellow skaters about how little protection they seemed to provide. Here I will give them credit. The children’s elbow and knee pads were in no way cutting it and I was overwhelmed with the comfort and protection my new knee and elbow pads provided me. (Triple 8 Brand)
(Actual before and after knee pads: UltraWheels vs. Triple 8)
(I also have to say one other thing here: Roller Girls seem to accept it as a given that our sports equipment will stink and mildew. Jokes are made about building a sisterhood that is based on smelling each other’s rank gear. EW, GROSS. Let me tell you, in the 4 years I skated with children’s Coscto issue pads, I never had a funk problem. But the SECOND time I pulled my triple 8 pads out of my bag they were still wet from the first use. I have to point out that in addition to “if it hurts it’s not right”, I’m pretty sure “if it stays wet and stinks it’s not right.” Don’t accept this as standard!! This is crappy manufacturing! Demand better from sporting goods, don’t blindly accept it by buying febreeze and learning to air dry your pads. Are you kidding me? Anyways, end tangent.)
I had received the same pressure and teasing about my wrist guards as I had about my knee and elbow pads but had to no avail found anything close to the comfort and protection my ULTRAWHEELS wrist guards had been providing me for years. At first I went on a quest to find the most comfortable option of what was out there but have since concluded current wrist protection options just are not meeting the needs of roller derby athletes.
Everyone these days is wearing the style that looks like this:
(I am wearing 1 Triple 8 and 1 TSG wrist guard)
Not only does the guard wrap around the entire wrist, but there is also a hard plastic brace in place on top of the wrist. When I first tried on this style wrist guard I thought it hurt and restricted my wrist’s mobility.
Conversely, the style of UltraWheels guards provide complete flexibility and range of motion for your wrists. They feel natural and most importantly, don’t hurt!
By now I’ve covered the crux of the issue: the unnecessary and painful top wrist support of current models. I must further illustrate however, the superiority of the UltraWheels style wrist guard by pointing out one more differing feature, the shape of the palm support. Let my photos demonstrate:
Both the triple 8 and TSG have a long, flat rectangular plastic piece that is awkwardly curved forcing your hand permanently into an angled position. This is standard. These guards are so immobilizing they feel like braces or casts. If you will notice, my hands and arms are slightly tilted inward, because the wrist guards are forcing them that way. (-Especially my right hand wearing the Triple 8). Immobilization does not equal protection! Likewise, the mobility my UltraWheels wrist guards provide do not inhibit my safety. In fact, they are safer in that I can move naturally if I were to fall or suddenly need the use of my hands.
As you can see, the plastic is shaped more to fit the hand and is flexible. This style moves with the hand and wrist, rather than forcing the hand and wrist into an unnatural position. Not only does the flexibility of the plastic provide more mobility, the absence of the top brace further mimics the natural motion of the hand and wrist. Some may argue that this style seems less protective, but I would say that I have had enough experiences to prove otherwise: I speed skate aggressively in the street and have fallen several times. I am convinced my UltraWheels wrist guards have protected me from more broken wrists. And second, I would say as I always have: if it hurts IT’S NOT RIGHT.
Now if my own experience, comfort and concern for my own safety is not enough to convince me I am right about my wrist guards, Pia Mess of SVRG is. Pia Mess, (#24/7, she makes ya bleed) is one of my favorite skaters. Talented, athletic and always a showman, she gets what roller derby is about. One of the best skaters on the track and one of the most entertaining, I have loads of derby love and respect for her mad skills. So when she posted this picture I flipped! LOOK AT HER WRIST GUARDS! I immediately had to ask her what brand they were and where she got them. She told me how much she LOVED her wrist guards. I’m pretty sure she said they were “Bones” or something, but the point is she got them in the kids department of a sporting goods store! There you have it. What the masses say and what is the norm is not always what’s best. Go with your gut.
P.S. I saw a fellow teammate suffer a terrible arm break in the middle of game play because she had her wrist guards on UPSIDE DOWN. How is this possible? She was wearing them on the wrong hands. For those of you who weren’t wondering that question literally but rather in the sense “How the hell did anyone allow that to happen?” Good question. 1) Always teach your skaters how to properly wear their gear, even if you think it is obvious, and 2) Required gear checks before games should be STANDARD. (Another fellow teammate realized only after a game that she has skated the entire second half without wearing wrist guards and not one skating official had noticed.)
P.P.S. A neighborhood friend of mine that I grew up roller blading with suggested that I look into wrist protection for boxers. He said those are what he and his brother used skating growing up and they worked great. Anyone have any comments?