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Rat City Roller Derby
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Seattle’s Rat City Roller Derby has its own athletic trainer

Rat City Roller Derby on the rink (Photo by NSP 189 Photography)

Roller derby is a full contact sport. Just ask Rat City Roller Derby skaters.

“My current injury, at the moment, I’ve got a sprained ankle and hyperextended my knee,” Alyssa Pray said.

“I tore my ACL during playoffs,” said Pray’s teammate, Jessica Buckner.

“Last year I tore my meniscus, sprained my shoulder and sprained my ankle on the right side,” said Rat City skater, Holly Botts.

Seattle’s Rat City Roller Derby is extremely lucky to have its very own, full time athletic trainer — a very rare privilege for a roller derby team. Reshmi Bahadur is employed by UW Medicine, but her job is devoted to assisting the team at practices and bouts, both domestically and when they compete overseas.

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“We help them with their nutrition,” Bahadur said. “I have a background in exercise science so we’re able to create workout plans. If an athlete does sustain an injury, working alongside with physical therapists and physicians. Making sports specific drills and exercises to help with their return to play.”

Botts said she didn’t have someone like Reshmi when she participated in roller derby in Port Angeles.

“We had no medical personal, we had nothing,” she said. “We would injure ourselves, we would continue to skate. We would get concussions, not know that we’re actually concussed and just continue to skate. Having Reshmi here holds us back from pushing ourselves where we shouldn’t, because women tend to push themselves beyond what they’re capable of doing.”

By introducing individual workout plans and offering nutritional advice, Pray says her performance has vastly improved.

“From where I started out last year in March, compared to where I’m at now? A complete jump,” Pray said. “It was insane. Having Resh here, with the program we have, I can see myself, but also our team, just skyrocketing with performance.”

Botts says people don’t always realize that roller derby is a sport.

“I think they generally think it’s a lot like WWE and it’s fake and we’re just throwing elbows and it’s absolutely not,” Botts said. “I work out four times a week, I practice four times a week. I put everything into this. Plus we’re also running this building and running this league. We’re running a business and being athletes all in our spare time because we all have day jobs.”

Rat City Roller Derby

It’s been a long time since I saw a Rat City Roller Derby bout, and they were skating in fishnets and tutus and costumes. But in an effort to be taken more seriously as a competition sport, they now wear uniforms. And Bahadur wants them outfitted in safety gear made for serious athletes.

“It is a combo, to me, of hockey and football with not enough pads…on skates,” Bahadur says with a laugh. “What’s required is knee pads, elbow pads and a helmet. Since I’ve been here they’ve had some pretty good helmets, but over the years they used to play with bicycle type helmets. So if you think about falling on a hard surface without having a customized helmet like in hockey or football, that’s a lot of damage that they can sustain.”

But despite the intensity, Bahadur says derby is for everyone. She estimates about 90 percent of people on the teams never played a sport before. Newbies can start by learning the basics of skating and graduate all the way up to the touring team. Before she started doing derby eight years ago, Botts had never considered herself an athlete.

“I think we’re all kind of misfits,” she said. “This is a place where you can be exactly who you are, regardless of what that is, and be accepted and be an athlete. Even if you weren’t the kid who played soccer in school and didn’t find your niche in school, this is the place where we will teach you how to be a teammate and how to play sports.”

Whether they’re at one of their three-hour practices four times a week, or competing in Finland, like they were earlier this month, Bahadur will be on the sidelines, taping up toes and keeping her team safe.

To check out a Rat City Roller Derby bout, click here!

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