Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Magazine
• Tips for Effective Team Leadership
• Acupuncture and Derby
• Transitioning to New Skates
• Derby/Life Balance
• Derby Makeup: How to Create a Killer Look
• Surviving the Fresh Meat Program
• Plus more, including advice on how to adapt to the new WFTDA rule set, derby over 40, helmet liner review, eight stretches before you skate
Tony Burris LAc, Treasure Valley Roller Girls
Contact sport: a sport in which players may directly or indirectly have physical contact with an opponent. Roller derby is a contact sport.
The hip check. The C-stop. The J-stop. The sore body the next morning and the chronic pain and injuries that can accumulate during a season. Like any sport, derby girls are rarely 100% once the season begins. They often skate hurt in order not to miss a bout, which can compound the problem. That’s how much they love it and are dedicated to the team and its goals.
Everyone has their method or modality to manage the pain. You find that thing or combination of things that helps manage the pain and discomfort and keeps the body in balance for the upcoming rigors of bouts and practice. Maybe it’s a massage, a back adjustment, or an ibuprofen. Maybe all three.
I’ve been a clinical acupuncturist specializing in sports injury and pain management for more than ten years, and I’ve been helping frustrated athletes of all types manage their pain and injury issues using acupuncture. My patients have included NFL players, Major League Baseball players, Olympians, MMA fighters, and bodybuilders. But I have to admit, working with our local derby team here in Boise, Idaho, has been the most fun.
I contacted the Treasure Valley Roller Girls (TVRG) and offered my services to the club, having no expectation on what their response might be. But I was hoping that something as off-beat as roller derby would accept something just as off-beat as acupuncture. To my delight, TVRG was interested and off we went as team acupuncturist and sponsor.
My first contact with the team also happened to be my first patient from the team, Lemon Harangue Die. Lemon suffered a broken leg last season and has had recurring pain at the break site with skating. She seemed to get some relief from my treatments and, as word got out, the rest of the team followed.
The girls are treated at my clinic and come of their own free will. I evaluate them according to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and set them up with a treatment plan that will get them the results they are seeking. Most often this is for pain management and the resolution of chronic nagging injuries that just never seem to go away. The hip check. The C-stop. The J-stop. It’s a contact sport.
“Having Tony with Eagle Acupuncture as a sponsor for Treasure Valley Rollergirls has been an amazing asset!” says Boobie Houser, M.D. “Tony has a vast knowledge base to help us with injuries and general health concerns. Acupuncture has helped us focus more on the game and less on aches and pains.”
Acupuncture is one of many therapeutic options for the derby athlete. It can go deeper and reach more exact anatomical structures than many therapies. For pain management, acupuncture is less invasive than surgery and, often, the athlete can continue to train while undergoing treatment.
Acupuncture decreases rehab down-time by stimulating cell counts, blood flow, reducing post-op pain and helping to break up adhesions. It can also treat several areas at once.
“Acupuncture has helped me with the care of several roller derby related injuries,” says Candy AssAssasin. “It can relieve minor muscle tweaks and has aided in the healing of a broken ankle. It assists in pain control and enhances relaxation, and in turn, helps make me a stronger, more balanced athlete.”
“For the first time in seven years, I am completely pain free,” says Cougar Crush, a four-year veteran on the Treasure Valley Roller Girls. Cougar underwent a series of acupuncture treatments with me for shoulder, knee, back and hip issues. After years of bouting in pain, she is able to skate pain-free.
Each patient and condition is unique. Typically, patients receive treatment once or twice per week. Some may respond favorably after two or three treatments, while others with chronic or hard-to-treat problems may require more. Remember, acupuncture is a therapy, which means an athlete will get the best result from a course of visits rather than just one.
Acupuncture is also effective as a performance enhancer. Many use it prior to an event to calm anxiety and consolidate focus, without feeling drugged. Others use it to stimulate their bodies and overcome lethargy or over-training. Trix-E, one of the original members of the Treasure Valley Roller Girls, uses acupuncture treatments to control allergy and sinus problems. This can be viewed as a performance enhancement in a way because it releases the athlete from using over-the-counter or prescribed medications, which can have deleterious side effects and reduce performance.
Are there studies to confirm acupuncture’s effect on the athlete? Yes.
Acupuncture’s efficacy on pain relief is widely accepted in the medical world and this is the number one issue I deal with TVRG.
Beyond that, there are interesting studies regarding the use of acupuncture to produce cardiovascular improvements that enhance physical capacity and endurance. A study of cyclists showed that those receiving acupuncture extended their performance limits by 7% over those who did not receive acupuncture.
Another study showed that acupuncture performed post-exercise reduces lactic acid build-up in the muscles. Study participants on a treadmill test received acupuncture 5 minutes and 30 minutes after exercising. Those who received acupuncture had 6% less acid build-up after 5 minutes and 14% less acid build-up after 30 minutes than those who did not receive acupuncture. This means less muscle fatigue, reduced muscle soreness, and decreased recovery time.
In the same study, participants reported feeling more comfortable during exercise if the points were stimulated during exercise. This could lead to more intensive and longer training, which came in handy this season since the girls qualified for divisionals in August in Des Moines, Iowa, and took third place, upsetting the top-ranked team.
So what does all of this mean? It means that in a sports world filled with nutritionists, strength coaches and trainers, the use of acupuncture is a valuable and over-looked therapy that can help reduce pain and recovery times in the derby athlete, as well as potentiate their performance capabilities. I would encourage derby athletes to use acupuncture and Traditional Chinese medicine as a valuable adjunct to their wellness regimen. It’s working just fine in Boise, Idaho.