Harder, Better, (slightly) Fatter, Stronger: One year after I broke my leg in roller derby

Funk Roll Brother, my roller derby alter ego, a few months before breaking my leg.

On October 16, 2010, I broke my leg playing men’s roller derby. I shattered my fibula and broke my tibia, the only two bones that connect the knee to the foot. After two surgeries, I now have a metal rod in my right leg, plus a plate on my ankle and a dozen screws holding it all together (see: x-ray photos).

A year later, I’m harder, better, (slightly) fatter and stronger.

Harder: With my new bionic leg, the doctor told me I was virtually indestructible. It should be harder to break my leg than ever. Kind of like the movie Kick-Ass, only I’m certainly not about to dress up like a superhero and run around fighting crime. “Virtually” is not the same as “completely.” Plus, spandex? Ew.

Better: I’m about 98% recovered. I can walk normal, go up and down the stairs, dance, skip, even run a little bit. My knee is the only thing still holding me back sometimes, as the joint still hurts if I push it too hard — so I try and stick with non-impact cardio whenever possible, but I’ve done a few kickball games this summer and I’ll sprint through the rain to my car. I’m almost all better.

Fatter: Since I broke my leg, I’ve gained about 10-15 pounds. I was on a couch for two months, recovering, but that’s not much excuse 10 months later. My diet isn’t great (but it never has been) and my job is pretty sedentary; still, I really just need to motivate myself to exercise more. I’m not going back to roller derby, but that wouldn’t help much anyway — the sport’s fun, but it doesn’t really do a whole lot for fat burning. Suzy Hotrod didn’t get her body from just roller skating around, folks.

Stronger: Not being able to use my leg for two months, I built up upper body strength. Using crutches, I was forced to use my arms more for everything. I don’t have tickets to the gun show or anything, but I can carry my DJ equipment more easily than I used to.

In the rest of my life, I’m still doing the same things I enjoy doing — music, going to concerts, socializing, writing, movies, etc. The only thing I have yet to attempt with my new bionic leg is airport security. I haven’t flown anywhere since the injury, and I’d be curious to see if I set off the metal detectors. The doctor told me it wouldn’t, but we’ll just have to see…

Starting off 2011 on the right foot, a.k.a. an update on my broken leg

X-ray of my right leg

An x-ray of my right leg, two months after breaking it in a roller derby bout. You can see the rod going through the bigger bone, which still hasn't fully healed.

On October 16th, I broke my leg in a roller derby bout against Mass Maelstrom near my hometown in Massachusetts. I shattered (and I hate to use the word “shattered” because I’m a hypochondriac, imagining the worst of every injury) my fibula and broke my tibia, meaning there was nothing connecting my foot bone to the knee bone. After two surgeries and 39 staples, I’m bionic – I’ve got a plate on my ankle, a metal rod in my right leg, and a dozen screws holding it all together.

For the first month, I was relegated to a couch and wore a huge, awkward boot that left me largely immobile. I watched more crap movies (did you know that Netflix doesn’t offer subtitles/captions on most of their instant titles?) and crap TV than I care to recount.

At my doctor’s request, I stayed at my father’s house twenty miles outside of Boston. It was good because a) I got to see family and hometown friends; b) my recovery required lots of check-ins to make sure I was recovering well; and c) I couldn’t even get around with crutches or a walker, much less make meals or do basic chores. I did get to have my favorite sub, though, the Budster: chicken fingers, bacon, BBQ sauce, and cheese in a torpedo sandwich. YUM. However, I couldn’t sleep, and I was taking painkillers like they were breath mints. Worse, I missed Syracuse and my life there.
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FREE download of Rock ‘N’ Roller Derby – a DJ mix by DeafGeoff

Click here to download for free!

In summer 2010, I made a new DJ mix called Rock ‘N’ Roller Derby. As a special gift for New Year’s, I’m letting everyone have it for free – click here to download!

Track listing for DeafGeoff’s Rock ‘N’ Roller Derby:
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The tragic tale of Funk Roll Brother, a.k.a. how I broke my leg

Yours truly, "Funk Roll Brother," in the emergency room with a broken leg.

I broke my leg playing roller derby in Central Mass on October 16th.  Let me clarify that — I shattered my fibula and broke my tibia, the only two bones that connect the knee to the foot.  It’s still unclear whether the injury came from a hit, a loose toe-stop, or just simply bad luck.  Either way, a natural reaction would be to either hate the team we were playing against, or to start regretting playing the sport in the first place.

However, it is amazing how supportive everyone in the roller derby community has been, both before and after my injury.  I love these people.

I remember everyone worrying after a small blowup occurred on the track at my first bout (August 14th, Quadfathers vs. CT Death Quads) and everyone thought for sure there’d be a fight in the parking lot.  We had all been hitting hard, getting aggressive, yelling — but 40 minutes later we were all hanging out at the afterparty, drinking, dancing, joking and taking pictures.

My team, the Quadfathers, got pretty much hammered on Saturday, October 16th against CMRD’s Mass Maelstrom (only my second bout).  The final score was 183-50, and there were many frustrations throughout the bout – one blog from the Albany All-Stars’ Sin & Tonic referred to Maelstrom skater Muchacho del Oro as “a villain,” but it’s absurd to expect a great player to go easy and let up.  And he’s so good, despite his ridiculous shiny gold pants.

With 4 minutes left in the bout, I was hit while jamming (for you non-derby fans, that means I was the one trying to score points) and went down hard.  For a split second, I saw my leg go one direction, and my foot the other.  I crawled off the track and immediately stopped moving so they’d call off the jam – I knew something was broken.

The EMT rushed out to start checking me over, while my girlfriend grabbed my hand and occupied my field of vision – she knows I’m a hypochondriac, so if I saw blood or tried to look at my leg it would feel twice as bad.  For some reason, though, the EMT didn’t think anything was broken – just a “pop” to the knee.  He put ice on my knee and advised me to keep my foot moving, even though I screamed in agony every time I tried to.  The EMT and Reffin’ Ain’t Easy helped me off the track, and the ambulance was called.  (Interestingly enough, when the ambulance arrived, a teammate of mine had hit the floor and thrown up on the track – I started freaking out, thinking he was stealing my ambulance!  He ended up getting checked out at the hospital, too, but I’m glad to say he’s OK.)

I was taken to the emergency room where the paramedics’ first question was why I had ice on my knee – they were more concerned with the fact that I couldn’t keep my foot in line with the rest of my leg.  They started mummifying it, and took me in for x-rays.  I had broken both bones in the lower half of my right leg, essentially meaning there was nothing connecting my knee bone to the foot bone. (And yes, it hurt like hell.)

A few shots of the damage and the treatment done to my right leg.

10 hours later, I was finally taken in for surgery – when I woke up, I had been given bionic parts.  My right leg now contains a metal rod, dooming me to awkward airport check-ins for the rest of my life.  I also woke to see great friends, teammates and family waiting for me with flowers, cards, and smiles.  I even got a lollipop in the shape of a skate.

Since then, I’ve been recovering at my father’s place in Massachusetts, in the same house where I grew up.  The zombie-leg staples are out, and I’m doing physical therapy to maintain flexibility and strength.  (I’m also hoping using the crutches and walker will give me awesome arm tone.)  I’ve been told to stay here for 4-6 weeks, and I should be back to “normal” shortly after Christmas.  It’s tough, but dem’s the breaks…

The well wishes from everyone have been awesome, including shout-outs on this video and the Capital District Men’s Roller Derby FacebookThank you so much to everyone who’s been helping and supporting me through this.  I love you all.