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Johns Hopkins Nurses Wreck n’ Roll

A college statistics class led Lisa Scotti, RN, MPH, ACRN, to a head-on collision with her athletic passion.

When Scotti took a statistics class in 2005 as a requirement for her master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, one discussion touched on the stats of head injuries suffered by roller derby skaters who did not wear helmets.

As a lifelong roller skater, Scotti immediately was intrigued by the rough-and-tumble sport. Scotti soon discovered one of her classmates was married to a woman who competed in roller derby.

At the time, Scotti, an HIV nurse educator at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, was looking for an active hobby. Roller derby certainly filled that requirement, and the discussion about head injury stats did not deter Scotti when she tried out and made the cut for the Charm City Roller Girls roller derby league. This year, Scotti is a member of the Junkyard Dolls team. She is in her third year in the league.

Scotti has discovered roller derby keeps her in top physical shape while giving her mind and body a diversion from her work life. Scotti competes with six other Johns Hopkins Medicine employees who shoulder big responsibilities on the job and big hits and fun on the track.

“Whether you win or lose, it’s hard not to have a good time,” says Laura Jansen, RN, a roller derby competitor and staff nurse in the adult ED and emergency acute care unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital. “It’s a game made up of all the things you weren’t allowed to do at the roller rink as a kid. You get to race as fast as you can, crack the whip, cut really close to people, push them. And if you trip them, you don’t get thrown out.”

The Charm City Roller Girls is comprised of four teams that play at various levels. Scotti and Jansen play on the all-star travel team, which is ranked in the top 10 of all teams nationally.

True to their roots, these nurses and other contemporary roller derby players carry on the colorful tradition of using clever aliases that often combine satire with puns on punk toughness and pop culture.

Jansen, the captain of the Speed Regime team, is better known on the derby track by the alias, “Reckless Ndangerment.”

“The inside joke is that my initials are RN,” she says.

Scotti’s roller derby name is “Flo Shizzle,” a play on the slang term meaning “for sure.” Other Johns Hopkins employee roller derby personas include “Nurse Wretched,” “Bambi’s Revenge,” “Mibbs Breakin Ribs,” and “Allie B. Back.”

These in-your-face alter egos pull no punches in letting opponents and fans know exactly where they stand — or skate — in their level of grit, determination, and toughness.

On the roller derby track, Johns Hopkins nurse Laura Jansen is known as “Reckless Ndangerment.”

Handling Conflict Head-On
Roller derby also is known as women’s flat track derby and is based on formation roller skating on traditional four-wheeled skates around an oval track. During a bout or match, two competing teams each put four blockers and one jammer on the track at a time. The blockers from both teams all skate together in a pack and physically try to block the other team’s jammer from skating through the pack.

At the same time, blockers try to open up space so their team’s jammer can race past the pack. The game is won by the team whose jammer skates around the track the most times.

“It’s full contact on the track, and falls are often not graceful,” Jansen says.
Despite the physical nature of the games, there are rules and steps taken to keep skaters as safe as possible. For example, elbowing and striking in the face or head are not allowed. The roller girls all receive training on how to skate with proper form and how to fall to avoid injuries, according to Scotti, who also is a coach.

Players also wear full protective gear, including helmets and mouth guards, much of which is borrowed from other extreme sports that involve rough falls, such as skateboarding.

From left in yellow jerseys, “Joy Collision” and Jansen hold back an opposing pack of skaters.

Women from all backgrounds and ages are drawn to roller derby. Many of these women have never been athletic before, but find they get hooked on the rigorous training, physical contact, energy, and excitement of the sport.

“For a lot of women, it improves their confidence,” Scotti says.

The rigorous game has a particular appeal for nurses.

“In nursing, there is often conflict that surrounds us, and we don’t get to face much of it head on,” Jansen says. “Nursing’s role is to facilitate a resolution and help everyone on the care team work together. In the end, it’s about achieving optimal patient care. In roller derby, you get to compete in an arena where aggressiveness is appropriate. It’s very refreshing to physically go straight at a conflict and give it everything you’ve got.”

For information on roller derby in Baltimore, log on to

Catherine Spader, RN, is a freelance writer.

By | 2021-05-27T14:37:07-04:00 May 4th, 2009|Categories: Nurses Stories|0 Comments

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