The sport of roller derby can be fun and exciting. If you are planning to join a roller derby league you should be aware of the risk of injury and ways to minimize them. One of the top injuries that players face is damage to ankles; this injury can be debilitating.


Ankle fractures, strains, and sprains are common in the sport and the symptoms are similar enough that you might think you have a sprain when you actually have a fracture(s). When you have sudden and/or severe pain, bruising, and swelling, and you are unable to walk, you need to go to a sports medicine clinic to see a medical professional as soon as possible.

First Aid will include makeshift support of the joint, plus ice packs and elevation to reduce swelling.

If you have a fracture, your ankle may appear out of place or have a deformity, and the area will be tender. Treatment is dependent on where the fracture is and the total amount of damage. Severe or compound fractures, and breaks in certain areas may require surgery. Also, if the bones are out of place they will need repositioning.

All fractures require immobilization of the joint through the use of a cast or splint, and the use of crutches to keep weight off the ankle while you are healing. When the ankle has healed enough, you will need physical therapy to restore your range of motion, flexibility and strength to the joint.

Sprains and Strains

With a sprain you will have damage to the ligaments that connect your ankle bones together. Twisting, getting hit, or falling can all result in sprains. This will cause bruising, swelling, pain and stiffness to the joint.  Most sprains (approximately 85%) are caused when the foot twists inward (inversion injury) and this damages the lateral ligaments that are on the outside of your foot. If your foot has been twisted outward (Pronation Injury) the medial ligaments will be damaged.

Strains are torn or stretched muscles or tendons and are caused by pulling or twisting. The damage can happen with one incident or be the result of multiple incidents over time. With a strain you may experience pain, swelling or muscle spasms.

Torn ligaments and/or muscle tears could require surgery to repair the damage and restore full function to the joint.

RICE and Heat Treatments

First aid treatment for sprains and strains involves what is often referred to as RICE which is an acronym for these four things:

  • Rest – you will need to stay off the ankle as much as possible to avoid damaging it further and to give your body a chance to start the healing process.

  • Ice – will help with the swelling and pain. You will need to use a towel or some other protective cloth to prevent the area from getting too cold.

  • Compression – an elastic bandage is wrapped around the ankle will support it and minimize swelling. Just avoid wrapping it so tight it interferes with circulation to the area.

  • Elevation – this also helps to reduce swelling.

After 24-48 hours you may apply a heating pad to the area to bring comfort and aid in healing. If the damage was severe, you will need physical therapy as the ankle heals to stretch and to strengthen it enough to walk on.

Prevention: Exercise and Skates

To play roller derby safely, you will want to exercise outside of the rink regularly, to strengthen your bones and muscles. You also need to develop a stretching routine to increase flexibility. Some particularly appropriate exercise plans include yoga, weight training, bicycling, and/or plenty of walking.

To protect your ankles while playing roller derby, you will want to invest in a good pair of skates with built in ankle supports along with adequate overall support and stability.