Speedin Hawking

Skull on Fire: Coping with Multiple Concussions in Roller Derby (Guest Post)

Guest blogger and retired skater Speedin’ Hawking discusses her history of concussions and provides resources on diagnoses, rehabilitation, and how to ease yourself back into play.

“When you feel like this looks”

“When you feel like this looks”

My 5-year derby-versary was approaching in only a few months. I was extremely excited to re-join our B travel team after a spot opened up, and brought that enthusiasm to my first practice back that night. Towards the end of practice we scrimmaged our A-team, as we often would. At one point when I was blocking, I got caught in a pick and took a clean hit in the chest. It caught me off guard and took me off my feet. My head flung backwards, and as I was falling, I am told that the back of my head made contact with another skater in motion who was behind me, thrusting it forward. My immediate reaction was a panic attack. I started hyperventilating and crying and was ultimately confused and really distraught. I quietly moved off the track to gain control of what I thought was just a weird emotional outburst, withdrew myself from the group and hid behind a pillar so as not to bring attention to my embarrassing reaction. I sat out for the few remaining minutes of the practice while our first responders and my loving derby wife checked me out and tried to put me at ease.

Speedin' Hawking pivots for the Bay Street Bruisers in a game against Royal City in October 2012. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The author, Speedin’ Hawking, pivots for the Bay Street Bruisers in a game against Royal City in October 2012. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

I didn’t lose consciousness or forget my name, but I didn’t know exactly what had happened or how. I was really confused, and that is unusual for me as a fairly aware skater. I felt like I got my bell rung and immediately felt ‘out of it’. I drove myself home alone, which was a challenge in itself, as the road looked like that  drunk driving commercial from the 80s. Bad idea.

If this was a concussion, it would have been my fourth in a year and a half. Given that I am a shorter skater at 5’2″, it’s not a surprise that half of these were due to being hit in the chin or jaw and made worse with the whiplash that came with it. The other half are because I am a bit of a spaz in my day-to-day life. I wish I could tell you it’s from being bad-ass.

Needless to say I took some time to stay off skates, and since have had to pack it in for roller derby. As sad as this is, I have found that since I have become a vet at this concussion thing lately, and more and more leaguemates of mine have been asking about it: What does it feel like? What can you do about it? Who do you go see? Should I get a hockey helmet? Face shield? You too??!! And so on. Or sharing quietly that they think they have one and ask what they should do.

I am not sure if you have noticed in your leagues, but I have never seen so many people off skates at the same time due to this injury. We have become fitter, better, more agile, faster and more aggressive skaters. We are weapons on wheels. We are making fancier moves on our skates. Our style of play has evolved to be more scrum-like. Our rules have recently changed to allow some clockwise movement. I am not sure if all these things are linked, but they can’t be ignored either. If this is the way things are going, then let’s look after our brains cause we only get one (at least for now: c’mon science, where are you on this one?).

I also sucked up precious screen time searching the Internet for answers as to how I was feeling, what’s normal, and what I should do as a coping mechanism to counter the fear and anxiety I was experiencing. Now that I am mostly symptom-free 5 months later (hurray!) I thought I would compile some resources as well as share my learning from a derby perspective. This way, they are on-hand for others with symptoms who might be new to this or for teammates, captains and coaches to refer to in case of future injuries. Thanks to others who have gone through this too who shared their tips and resources with me.

I am not a doctor, or a professional healthcare provider, just a gal who has been searching for more and more answers on the Internet every time she bonks her face in roller derby.

If you think you or your buddy might have suffered a concussion, please visit a physician (sports or specialist if you can rather than a walk-in clinic or even your family doctor. Get checked out as soon as you can. Even if you think it’s no big deal and you feel mostly fine. Even if you only feel “just a bit off”. It’s very easy to talk yourself out of your injury, especially if you have a game coming up, or are super busy in life, so you really need others close to you to call you on your bullshit.

Following is a summary of things you might be wondering about concussions along with some handy references.

WHAT IS A CONCUSSION?

Your skull is your body’s built-in helmet. Your brain sits in your skull suspended in fluid. When you get rocked by a hit, your brain bounces around inside your skull, which can result in “bruising.” This could be because you fell and hit your head, but can also occur by being jostled or shaken.

Watch this! Science!

Also watch this: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Concussions

Also read:

What Happens to the Brain During a Concussion” from Scientific American

What a Bump to the Head Looks Like Inside Your Brain” from PBS.

WHIPLASH AND CONCUSSION-LIKE SYMPTOMS

Found to be highly related to concussions, whiplash can produce similar symptoms. Sometimes the tension or alignment in the neck that results can cause a pinching in your spine, which can have the same weird neurological effects as a concussion.

Read:

Whiplash: 5 Things You Should Know” from spineuniverse.com

POSSIBLE CAUSES OF CONCUSSION

I am sure you are creative and can find more ways but here are some common ones:

– impact to the head from a hit or a fall

– impact to the face or jaw causing the head and neck to jostle and may include whiplash

– impact to the body causing the head and neck to jostle and may include whiplash

Read the Mayo Clinic’s list of basic causes here.

DIAGNOSIS AND TESTING

On-Track:

Ensure that your first-responders or coaches and managers in your league have been trained to screen and assess if a concussion may have occurred or can help with triaging the injury. Review WFTDA Safety Protocol Section 6 carefully as well as Appendix C-D for concussion info.

The SCAT (Sport Concussion Assessment Tool) is quite commonly used. The current version is SCAT3: Sport Concussion Assessment Tool

Here’s an offline sheet that you can keep a few copies of near the track or in your bags:  Sport Concussion Assessment Tool PDF

The CDC also offers this palm card that walks through the assessment: Palm card assessment

And, of course there’s an app for that! Here’s a great breakdown of the popular concussion apps.

Post-Concussion:

You might end up getting a CT Scan or in bad cases an MRI to be sure there’s no head trauma or blood clotting, but because it’s really hard to “see” bruising on your brain, there is really no conclusive way at this time to see how bad your concussion is. You break a bone, you get an x-ray and can see it. We don’t have that kind of thing yet for concussions.
So the best you can do is monitor your symptoms which is why it’s super important to see a doctor and talk this out with them. Bonus points if they have a specialty or are a sports physician who deals with this a lot.

There are tests that rely on testing your neurological responses, cognition and balance, but their accuracy is debated and there aren’t any broadly accepted tools at this time for diagnosis. A couple of them are:

As for finding a physician, many in our league here in Toronto have visited the David L. MacIntosh Sport Medicine Clinic at the University of Toronto for help

Also check out:

The clinic you visit already for physio for your myriad of other derby injuries might also have someone there with a specialty in treating sports concussions.


SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Here is a list of common symptoms. This is your best way to track your progress, so really try to monitor how you feel. Write it down every day even. You might start seeing patterns emerge after certain stimulus. For example, during a regular work day post-concussion, it was normal for me to get a pressure headache between 3 and 4 pm due to computer usage and thinking so darn hard. I knew I was getting better when that would start to go away.

Think of it as a “buffet” of options, or a “portfolio”. You might not feel all of them at any given time, but even feeling one of them counts. Don’t tell yourself that you don’t have a concussion if you feel a bunch of these but then don’t feel nauseous, for example. A good sign is thinking that something is out of the ordinary for you. Also, you aren’t better until your symptoms go away completely.

If you decide to take anything to treat these symptoms (like ibuprofen or anti-nauseants), just be aware that you could be masking your symptoms which is your only reliable way to measure progress in your rehab.

  1. Headache
  2. Pressure in head
  3. Neck Pain
  4. Nausea or Vomiting
  5. Dizziness
  6. Blurred vision
  7. Balance problems
  8. Light sensitivity
  9. Noise Sensitivity
  10. Feeling slowed down
  11. Feeling “in a fog”
  12. “Don’t feel right”
  13. Difficulty concentrating
  14. Difficulty remembering
  15. Fatigue or low energy
  16. Confusion
  17. Drowsiness
  18. Trouble falling asleep
  19. More emotional
  20. Irritability
  21. Sadness
  22. Nervousness or anxiousness

Read more:

Concussion Signs and Symptoms” from momsteam.com

Concussion Signs and Symptoms” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

POST-CONCUSSIVE DISORDER

This is actually a thing! You are not on crazy pills! You may have rolled away from a practice or game feeling alright after a hit, but then start feeling the effects later or a month later. Post-concussive disorder symptoms skew more on the psycho-behavioural side of things rather than physiological. So if you are seeing behavioural or emotional changes in yourself, this could be why. Like feeling extra “hulk-smash-y” or like you are PMS’ing, or like your old anxiety challenges have been triggered again. Try not to get too paranoid about it and go see a doctor to put you at ease and work on next steps to rehab.

REHABILITATION

Rest. That’s it. Cognitive and physical rest. Nothing fancy. Unfortunately this often means laying down and doing nothing, no brain stimulation. This includes abstaining from watching videos, listening to music, reading, writing, audiobooks. Stay off your smart phone! It’s like your body is now grounded as punishment for doing something dumb to your brain.  You might be sensitive to light and certain frequencies of sound, so hang out in a dim and / or quiet room. Earplugs and sunglasses become your best friends.

ETY Plugs by Etymotics have been the best ever, I take them everywhere with me.

Work with your physician to determine a plan for what’s best for you as far as timing, rest and return to activities and exercise. Determine if you have to take a leave from work or school, and if there is any disability support in place to assist you with keeping up. If you are typically a busy-body, then you might need someone to explicitly tell you how to rest.

Stay away from practice. Watching your teammates skate fast around and around while whistles go off can be overstimulating. As much as you might want to participate off-skates and be with your team, this environment does not help with your rehab. Hopefully your coaches and teammates understand.

Supplements: Unlike taking something to treat your symptoms, your doctor might prescribe supplements that promote brain healing and cognitive improvement. This might include:

  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) – promotes the production of energy in the brain’s blood vessels (1)
  • Magnesium – improves synaptic plasticity, aids memory and learning (2)
  • Vinpocetine – enhances cerebral blood flow and neuroprotective effects (3)
  • DHA Omega-3 or Fish oil – brain development (4)
  1.  Vitamin B22 (From howstuffworks.com)
  2. “Magnesium Boosts Brain Function” from wellnessresources.com
  3. Vinpocetine (Wikipedia)
  4. Docosahexaenoic Acid (Wikipedia)

Physio / massage: Your treatment plan from your doctor might also include cranial massage or acupuncture to help with the pressure release and stimulate circulation to the brain to aid the healing process. I have had cranial massages, skull pecking, acupuncture in my head and even a deep neck flexor massage for whiplash. I have also been prescribed neck strengthening exercises as part of my physio.

Your treatment plan might even include some low-impact exercise to help increase blood flow to your brain. I found it also helps get those feel-good endorphins going to counter those downer feelings you might be experiencing.


RETURN TO PLAY

This is going to take time, and like all injuries, rushing back will only harm you in the long run. You want to be sure that you are fully recovered before trying to skate again in order to avoid aggravation or re-injury. Since multiple concussions have a cumulative effect, you don’t want to experience another, and especially not right away. It will set you back exponentially and can leave you with lingering or long-term effects.

Most concussion guidelines for sports have a pretty explicit return to play outline, however, ensure that your doctor clears you to skate initially (your sport is skating around and around for hours!) and then again to resume contact.

Here are a few good ones:

Captains and managers should also treat this injury as they would any other player injury. Depending on your league policies, a doctors note would be ideal. Know the steps:

  1. No activity, complete rest
  2. Light aerobic exercise
  3. Sport-specific activities – like skating
  4. Drills, no contact
  5. Drills with contact
  6. Game play

Take it step by step.

Start with light, low impact activity, like biking, walking or swimming, and move through the levels only if you are completely symptom-free. Not even a little headache. If you do feel your symptoms as a result, you need to continue your rest and rehab. Then try again at that level. This can sometimes be a slow, frustrating process.

There are also newer studies that suggest some exercise might also accelerate your progress. Best to just monitor how you are feeling. Try and see what might work for you and how you feel.

If you have suffered from multiples or even a single major event, know when it’s time to pack it in. Look at your risks vs rewards if you are considering returning, and consider how to avoid long-term damage (Decrease competitiveness? Try low contact? Take a couple of years off?)

As much as we are in love with our sport and the derby community, you only get one brain.

PREVENTION

Like my catholic upbringing taught me, the surefire way to avoid accidents is abstinence from engagement in risky activities. But really, we can’t skate around in a safety bubble like in bubble sports, can we? No really, can we??!!!

We play a contact sport that celebrates our athletes’ differences in size and shape, and we would hate to see that change. We have complete understanding that sometimes accidents just happen in contact sports.

Here are some ideas, however, that could help avoid first or future concussions in roller derby, or at least reduce the frequency we are seeing. It would also be wonderful if the ruleset was evaluated for safety by medical professionals and revised accordingly in addition to considering changes related to improvement of game play and spectator experience.

  • Helmets and face shields: Helmets can be great for helping absorb impact when hit, and protect your skull, but can’t help as much when you get a shot in the face or whiplash. At least, start with a legit multi-impact helmet for real! With the hard foam. Take that rubberized helmet you bought and throw it in the garbage. Don’t let your fresh meat buy them when they are investing in gear at the beginning. Check out section 9.1.3 of the rules to find out what equipment variations pass. Just like all of your other gear try options on, or borrow from your pals till you find the proper fit. Acknowledge that your head shape just might not fit properly with certain models. Look for a balance of protection and functionality (lightweight, not too hot, etc.) Some might find that hockey-style helmets stabilize the jarring and head and neck a bit more. Some find that face shields help prevent face hits. There are many options, just don’t cheap out on this body part when it comes to protection.
  • Practice backwards blocking as a skill: This is a newer blocking style that is becoming more prominent in game play, however not one commonly taught as a foundation in fresh meat programs. Practice greater control when transitioning quickly. Practice more upper body blocking techniques, giving and receiving, with the aim of avoiding flailing limbs or head/face hits. Especially try safely backwards blocking and side blocking or “picking” with a variety of different-sized opponents.
  • Strengthen your neck and upper body: Roller derby is definitely a total body sport, so don’t forget these body parts in your dry land training. Now that there is much more backwards blocking and shoulder blocking, strengthen this part of your body so that you can safely absorb and deliver these upper body hits. For blockers, this may also help dealing with that transfer of momentum from jammers coming in hot to a slow or stopped pack.
  • Call out head and face hits: For coaches and managers, try to pay attention to these hits as much as you would cutting and back blocking if refs aren’t at practice to call the high blocks. I feel like we let this one slide a lot because “it just happens”, meanwhile, we might be enforcing sloppy play and letting repeated hits to the face or head happen, which over time could increase susceptibility if a bigger hit is received. Remember that this injury is cumulative. Pull or bench any players for egregious play for sure.

TALK ABOUT IT

Finally, talk this out with others in your league or reach out to our amazingly supportive sports community. As horrible as it was that a number of us got injured at the same time in our league, we’ve become a great little support group for each other. It has also helped raise awareness about the injury in our league. There’s a great deal of comfort in knowing that you have leaguemates concerned for your well-being that have experienced the same symptoms and are going through rehab with you, especially in dealing with the psycho behavioural effects. We have also shared a great deal of knowledge and referred others to the right doctors, as well as have some ideas for future projects in this area, so stay tuned!

We play an adrenaline-driven sport that on top of it all, we put our hearts into organizing, building, running and progressing. This can make it extra challenging to pull back when the time comes, whether it’s taking a short break or a long one.

There’s a great documentary called The Crash Reel that helps puts things into perspective and does a great job illustrating how passion for our sport can take over. Thanks Kamikaze Kitten for the recommendation and for being just a random Facebook message away!

Watch Trailer: The Crash Reel

Save your brain, you may need it later.

And if you are currently rehabbing a concussion, thanks for using up some of your screen time here.

Feel free to keep the conversation going here in the comments section, or by sharing your resources and experiences too!

Guest Blogger Speedin’ Hawking skated with Toronto Roller Derby from 2009 to 2014 as a member of the Death Track Dolls (2013 co-captain) and the Bay Street Bruisers B-level travel team (‎2012-2013).
Speedin Hawking blocking in a preseason game against Tri-City's Venus Fly Tramps before her 2010 rookie season with ToRD. (Photo by Chrissie Woo)

Speedin Hawking blocking in a preseason game against Tri-City’s Venus Fly Tramps before her 2010 rookie season with ToRD. (Photo by Chrissie Woo)

***Would you like to be a guest blogger?? Contact the Derby Nerd with questions, proposals, or recommendations at thederbynerd@gmail.com***

Dollmination: The Dolls put up record numbers in championship season

The Betties join the Dolls (with the Boot) for a post game photo. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Betties join the Dolls (with the Boot) for a post game photo. (Photo by Greg Russell)

It finally was the Year of the Doll.

After years of merely proclaiming it so, this year the Death Track Dolls put together an unbelievable season on their way to clinching their first ever ToRD championship. It was also a great turnaround for their opponents in the final, the Smoke City Betties, who Battled for the Boot for the first time since a 2009 loss to the Gore-Gore Rollergirls. The Betties threw all they had at the Dolls, but simply couldn’t match the depth of a Dolls team that was peaking at the right time in a season that has built slowly but steadily. They followed that same arc in this game as well, eventually pulling away in the Battle for the Boot and winning it by a championship game record setting 258-73 score.

The game began as a battle as the Betties started strong in grinding out a 3-1 lead after three jams, but there was a sense that the Dolls were more comfortable with the intensity of the game and were never truly strained. Approaching the 10 minute mark, with the Betties leading 7-5, a 20-0 jam orchestrated by what has become a trademark stifling defense represented the second and final lead change of the game. It was jammed by Bellefast and on the following jam, Santilly in Yo Face scored another 13 pointer, all on natural grand slams, to blow the game wide open. They Dolls managed a 61% lead percentage in the first half to the Betties 35%, to open up a 78 point lead at the break.

Dolls co-captain Scarcasm duels with Betties blocker Platinum Bomb. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Dolls co-captain Scarcasm duels with Betties blocker Platinum Bomb. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The half unraveled very much as the season did for the Dolls: a solid, but not extraordinary victory over the Chicks Ahoy! kicked things off (the Gores and the Betties would both earn victories over the Chicks by significantly better scores); then a phenomenal run to third place at the Beast of the East, followed by a tough but character-building loss to the Forest City Timber Rollers, prepared them for their dominant run through the rest of the regular season.

All season the Dolls won on hard and heavy defense and an excellent, soul-sucking power kill, led by co-captains Scarcasm and Speedin Hawking and including an emerging Ames to Kill and a reborn Audrey Hellborn, but supported by a roster loaded with strengths up and down the bench. Added to a core that has been building this team for up to five years were shrewd draft picks that included a mix of ToRD-built skaters and experienced transfers led by 709 Derby Girls transfer Rainbow Fight, who broke years-old jamming records in the house league this season, and was still the fourth jammer in a high-powered four-jammer rotation of Santilly In Yo Face, Bellefast and Getcha Kicks who all combined to set a league team scoring record of 689 points in the regular season.

Betties co-captain Misery Mae gets ready to set an offensive pick for her jammer, Udre. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Betties co-captain Misery Mae gets ready to set an offensive pick for her jammer, Udre. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The second half of the Battle for the Boot started off much the same as the first half, as the Betties were once again at their best from the opening whistle and managed to catch the Dolls off guard. A 31-0 run to kick off the second half (built on four straight lead jams and padded by a 20-point power jam), was the best sustained push by the Betties of the game and got them within 47 points, ten minutes into the half.

But once again, they could not sustain the push, and when the Betties made a mistake (in this case back-to-back jammer penalties) the Dolls pounced, putting up 55 points over four jams to bring their lead back over 100 points and essentially put the game out of the reach.

Santilly In Yo Face jukes around Misery Mae in the midst of a run of 11 straight leads to put the game away in the second half. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Santilly In Yo Face jukes around Misery Mae in the midst of a run of 11 straight leads to put the game away in the second half. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Dolls followed this burst with a series of 11 straight lead jammers that brought them to their record-setting scores. Although the championships haven’t necessarily been close games (the Gores 89-53 win over the Chicks in ’07 remains the lowest scoring and closest final), this Dolls victory was particularly dominant. They were the first team to score over 200 points in the Battle for the Boot, and their 185-point victory was the biggest margin of victory in champs’ history.

As in this game, the Dolls season also closed out strong compared to its beginning. The last time the team was near the top, they finished tied with the best record in the 2008 regular season but ended up losing the tiebreaker, slipped to second and lost in the semifinals to the Chicks. Previous to 2013, that had been the closest the team had come to finishing in top spot in the league. They closed out this home season with a 233-153 victory over the Gores and an even more impressive 265-63 victory over the Betties to clinch top spot.

Dolls co-captains Scarcasm and Speedin Hawking accept the Boot. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Dolls co-captains Scarcasm and Speedin’ Hawking accept the Boot. (Photo by Greg Russell)

This season marked an overhaul in league structure that saw CN Power skaters leave their home team rosters; this allowed the Dolls and the Betties—who’d been rebuilding during the Chicks and Gores recently string of dominance—to be ready when their opponents faced the big roster shakeups they dealt with this season. With the combined experience they had, the overall talent and structure, the Dolls were simply too much for the Betties in the Battle for the Boot 7 and, ultimately, too much for all of ToRD in 2013.

* That concludes the 2013 ToRD house league season, but stay tuned as things are just ramping up for ToRD’s travel teams, with a handful of home games remaining for the Bay Street Bruisers and the D-VAS, and the WFTDA playoffs coming up for CN Power.

2013 ToRD Season Preview Part 2: Betties and Dolls

The Betties ended a three year ToRD losing streak in 2012. (Photo by David Artemiw)

The Betties ended a three year ToRD losing streak in 2012. (Photo by David Artemiw)

Smoke City Betties

2012 Results: 1-2 regular season; lost semifinal to the Gores.

Who’s Out?

In 2012, the Smoke City Betties lost skaters left and right as the season went on as the final core of original skaters slowly moved on. During the season, long-serving Betties Hot Roller and Memphis Kitty called it quits with Sail Her Poon, Rug Burn and General Patten also moving on. The mid-season changes actually seemed to bring the team together and led to the most successful Betties season in years.

In the off season, however, a few more key pieces left the track. Grim Avenger and Lady Scorcher (who had developed into a key member of the pack) both retired, while triple threat BruiseBerry Pie and pivot Mia Culprit were called up to CN Power for 2013.

Who Remains?

Co captain and jammer Hailey Copter (formerly titmouse) had the best season of her career in 2012. (Photo by David Artemiw

Co captain and jammer Hailey Copter (formerly titmouse) had the best season of her career in 2012. (Photo by David Artemiw

After last year’s early season shifts, what emerged was a tight core that led the team to a second place finish in the regular season and a birth in the semifinals. After an injury-free year finally showed us just what she’s capable of, co captain Hailey Copter (formerly titmouse) will lead the offense (Hailey was second in the league in scoring with 130 points and was the second highest rated jammer on the season), being joined by veteran Wolverina and 2012 breakout jammer Slaptrick Swayze (an impressive 3.47 points per jam in her rookie year).

Co captain and pivot Misery Mae leads a pack that became increasingly tight last season and whose turn around was a key to the team’s success. Triple threat (and CN Power skater) Renny Rumble remains with the team this season (she had the second highest track percentage on the team last year at 52%), anchoring a pack that is built around veterans Tushy Galore (formerly Sin D Drop-Her), Tropic Thunder, Platinum Bomb, Mouth of the South, Genuine Risk and Laya Beaton,

Who’s New?

The Betties were also savvy drafters and picked up a whole lot of experience in the offseason. Transfers Tomy Knockers (who already skates for the Bay Street Bruisers) and Udre (who skated for Team Finland at the World Cup) are experienced, multi-faceted skaters who bring a few tools to the team. SewWhat? also followed a winding road to ToRD (including passing through Australia) and Uncivil Servant is a cross-city transfer with significant experience under her belt.

Potential triple threat LowBlowPalooza joins the Betties after a successful stint with the D-VAS. (Photo by David Artemiw)

Potential triple threat LowBlowPalooza joins the Betties after a successful stint with the D-VAS. (Photo by David Artemiw)

Joining them are key D-VAS-developed skaters LowBlowPalooza (already emerging as a prototypical ToRD triple threat), and the positionally solid blockers Mazel Tough and  Zom-Boney. Their most inexperienced pick up, Kil’Her at Large, has the pleasure—and relatively stress-free privilege—of developing around a solid core of skaters.

How’s it Look?

The Betties turned the page last season on a long and at times arduous rebuild that  began after the 2009 run to the championship game and seemed like it would never end. The team has completely remade itself now, rebuilt around a core of skaters who have changed the culture of the team as much as they’ve changed the way they skate on the track. Adding to this newfound stability is transfer coach Wade Wheelson who joins ToRD after coaching in St. John’s with the 709 Derby Girls.

After last year’s brief taste of success, you get the feeling that these Betties are going to be hungry for more in 2013. If all goes well, a chance to Battle for the Boot is definitely not out of the question.

Death Track Dolls

The Dolls look to improve off a disappointing last place finish in 2012. (Photo by Dan Lim)

The Dolls look to improve off a disappointing last place finish in 2012. (Photo by Dan Lim)

2012 Results: 1-2 regular season; did not make playoffs.

Who’s Out?

The Death Track Dolls did not lose a lot in terms of volume in the off season, but they lost some key players. Role players Kat Atomic and long-serving Dolls Lucid Lou and Spee Dee Ramone retired in the off-season, while veteran stars Betty Bomber, Jubilee and Panty Hoser joined CN Power full time.

While the losses for the Dolls are not as significant in terms of the numbers as the other teams in the league, they are certainly significant in terms of veteran on-track leadership as Bomber, Hoser and Jubilee were on the track for more than 50% of the Dolls’ jams last season. But this is a team that has built itself up well with a lot of depth over the pas few seasons, and could be more prepared than any to make the necessary adjustments.

Co Captain Speedin Hawking will lead a deep, experienced Dolls pack. (Photo by Dan Lim)

Co Captain Speedin Hawking will lead a deep, experienced Dolls pack. (Photo by Dan Lim)

Who Remains?

A range of internally developed skaters from a number of generations remain, including long-term veterans like Audrey Hellbornm, Dolly Parts’em, Demolition Dawn and  Monichrome, who have all been with the league from nearly the start. Downright Dirty Dawson, Slam Wow, co captain Speedin Hawking and Sinead O’Clobber represent the second wave of ToRD skaters, while co captain Scarcasm, Ames to Kill, Bellefast, Rhage in a Cage, Santilly In Yo Face, and UpHer Cut are all more recent additions who have quickly become pillars on this team.

The team had moments of brilliance last year, but also underachieved at times as well. With a deep, experienced pack at the core of the Dolls, consistency should follow in 2013.

Who’s New?

There are less new skaters on this team than any other, and, interestingly, they are on both ends of the experience spectrum. Transfers Canadian Psycho (co captain of the Bruisers), Getcha Kicks (another rookies Bruisers) and Rainbow Fight (a member of Team Canada at the World Cup) represent three of the most experienced newcomers to ToRD in 2013, while Android W.K., Chicken Sluggets, and Robotomy are as fresh as they come with virtually no track experience and represent the long-term development of the team.

Transfer Rainbow Fight will make her much anticipated ToRD debut this weekend. (Photo by Dan Lim)

Transfer Rainbow Fight will make her much anticipated ToRD debut this weekend. (Photo by Dan Lim)

How’s it Look?

Although the team always seems to proclaim “the Year of the Doll,” this year that expression rings more true than any other. With a solid team of returning skaters built around a well-selected core who are all rounding into peak form at the same time, the window for a championship is now wide open. And they seem to have all the pieces in place with an incredibly deep pack and a jammer rotation of Bellefast, Santilly In Yo Face, Rainbow Fight, and Getcha Kicks that will rival any in the league.

After last year’s disappointing inconsistency, the Dolls have all the tools to finally make it to the Battle for the Boot (they are the sole remaining home team not to appear in the championship game), and more importantly, may be hungrier than ever. Adding to the continuity is that Wencer returns to the bench for his second season, joined now by CN Power skater and long-serving Doll Panty Hoser. All in all, it’s an exciting time in the Doll House as for the first time ever, the Dolls are legitimate contenders for The Boot.

** Doors open at the season opening double header at 5:00 PM with the Dolls and Chicks squaring off at 6:00 PM followed by the Gores and Betties. Tickets are available online or at a number of downtown vendors.