Roller Derby Team Captain: Determined to Skate Again

The Deadly Sirens

Teresa Cassell is a champion roller derby player, dominating the rink for three years and recently winning a national trophy at a Texas tournament. But at the jam-packed season home opener game, a devastating injury threatened to end her roller derby dreams for good.

“I had an elevated level of pride that night, since it was my first game in the 2018 season as Captain of my team, the Deadly Sirens,” Teresa said.

At the end of the third quarter, the whistle blew and Teresa took off from the starting line, but her skate and the skate of the opposing player next to her locked for a fraction of a second too long. She was thrown off balance, sending her body lunging forward while her leg was stuck behind her.

“I landed smack on my leg and I instantly knew it was bad,” Teresa said. “I had broken my tibia and fibula bones just a few inches above my right ankle and could visibly see the damage. I was in terrible pain, but had to hold it together for the audience of 400 fans, including both of my daughters (ages 3 and 8) and my family.”

Teresa was loaded into the ambulance with her skate wrapped up along with her ankle and leg, telling her team and fans she would be right back and instructing the medical attendants not to cut her skate off.

“It was the worst night of my life,” Teresa said. “As skaters we all take a knee when a player goes down and stays down. I have taken a knee many times, but you never think it is going to happen to you.”

Teresa had surgery the next day and spent four days in the hospital, leaving with a rod and three screws in her right leg. After two weeks at home with severe pain and swelling, she went back to work in a wheelchair and couldn’t drive for four weeks. Unable to even walk, she longed to return to the rink to finish the season.

“Getting back on my skates was my goal from the minute I broke my leg,” Teresa said. “I wasn’t going to let a freak accident take away my derby career or season as a Captain.”

After hearing recommendations about the ARC Physical Therapy+ clinic in Liberty from friends on Facebook, Teresa made her decision. She was nervous about beginning physical therapy, but hoped she found the right place to continue her journey of healing.

“How do you start fixing something you can barely touch?” Teresa wondered. “My initial range of motion assessments were not pretty. I felt like it was going to take a long time to stand or walk again, and I dreaded that my 2018 roller derby season as Captain may actually be over. I fought some depression, but had enough support and determination to not let it eat at me.”

Danielle Garcia, Physical Therapy Assistant

Once Teresa started therapy, she began progressing more quickly than anyone expected. Teresa saw Physical Therapist Assistant Danielle Garcia two to three times a week, and together they focused on small changes and progress like walking, balance, regaining strength and being able to sleep comfortably.

“I love when someone comes into the clinic who just had surgery,” Danielle said. “They can hardly do anything, so they rely almost solely on you to help them get better. You build trust and rapport with them and get to see them regain motion––it’s the little things like putting hair in a ponytail again!”

Danielle tailored Teresa’s therapy to include exercises and stretches utilized by skaters, moving from sitting and stretching to full intensity workouts that recreated the feeling of skating.

“Everyone at ARC Physical Therapy+ was amazing from the moment I walked in the door,” Teresa said. “They knew I had bigger goals than walking. I needed to be able to perform, not just function. We worked at my pace, and sooner than I could have imagined I was shedding my injured self and taking my life back!”

Teresa started skating again 10 weeks after her injury and is easing back into full contact roller derby to avoid further injury.

“My family, coach, team and fans are behind me and ready for the full comeback!” Teresa said. “I will play again in our third home game on June 30th. I only missed one game and I’m ready to light the track up again!”

Danielle is thrilled with Teresa’s progress and became a Physical Therapist Assistant because she enjoys helping patients like Teresa.

“I liked working with Teresa because she was up for anything and always gave everything her best shot,” Danielle said. “To see a patient like Teresa regain strength and function, as well as her excitement and genuine happiness to be doing what she loves again, is my favorite part of my job.”

Teresa credits ARC Physical Therapy+ with her quick recovery and return to the track.

“Danielle and the ARCPT+ team have been behind me every step of this journey,” Teresa said. “It’s hard to be laid up, feeling helpless and useless. I needed help to bathe, couldn’t take care of my kids, and some days were hard on my family and therefore even harder on me. Danielle encouraged me from day one, working with me to turn it all around the reduce the time I was down. Thank you forever ARC Physical Therapy+!”

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