Ureteral & Testicular Injuries in Rollerblading: Denis Raby's Story

Article by Daniel Nodzak

Video by Matt Garrity with skating from Denis Raby

Denis Raby is a 39 year old graphic artist, rollerblader, and fixture of the Montreal scene. He’s been skating for over 20 years and cut his teeth as a graphic artist by interning at Daily Bread Magazine. His friends consider him to be one of the most passionate rollerbladers they’ve ever met. When I hear that kind of praise offered up to someone I think there’s weight behind it. Anyone skating these days is clearly down for the cause so it takes a special kind of person to be held in such high regard by their friends and fellow bladers for being that uniquely committed to rollerblading.

Last August Matt Garrity featured Denis Raby in Pitcher 2 a video showcasing the talent of the Montreal skating community. His section opens with a candid interview (available at the top of this article) about a horrific injury he suffered while skating on June, 10th 2016. I’m going to phrase this as harsh and bluntly as possible to underscore the severity here… Denis broke his dick.

In the last few years there’s been a push to raise awareness about the risks in our sport from people like Dave Lang, Cameron Card, Kennan Scott, and others who have shared their stories on vlogs and podcasts. While these efforts have mostly focused on concussions, traumatic brain injury, and encouraging the use of helmets I think Denis Raby’s story is an important one too. As rollerbladers we consider ourselves to be well aware of the dangers we’re up against. After all, if you’ve never split a rail you probably aren’t skating enough. But it’s that kind of nonchalant attitude that undermines our own health and safety at every turn.

I can’t cite statistics about the prevalence of ureteral and testicular injury in rollerblading because I don’t imagine any medical institutions have tried to collect data about it. Our sport probably doesn’t even have enough participants for a worthwhile study of ‘action sports.’ And as I expected, a cursory search of Google didn’t provide any relevant information. This is the only documented case I’ve heard of but I’m sure there are more out there because splitting rails is so common for rollerbladers that it’s laughed off at sessions and used as fodder to fill bail sections. But it’s not a matter to take lightly.

Even if cases like Denis’ ureteral injury are extremely rare within our sport it’s still reasonable to assume we’re at a significantly greater risk of ureteral and testicular injuries than the general population who don’t spend their free time jumping on and off handrails. So what’s the solution? I don’t think an article about one man’s injury will cause a mad rush of bladers hitting up Amazon to buy jockstraps and cups but maybe it should.

If you take a look at the wider world of sports wearing protective cups is commonplace if not mandatory. Lacrosse, ice hockey, rugby, football, boxing, and mixed martial arts, all utilize them from the professional level down through youth leagues. Rollerblading may not fit the textbook definition of a contact sport but I think there’s an argument to be made that it should be considered on equal footing at minimum. We don’t square off against an opponent coming at us as fast as we’re coming at them but we’re making similar high impact collisions with fixed objects. You’re never going to get a handrail as hard as it got you. The handrail will always win.

So why are athletic cups uncommon in the ‘action sports’ world? Name a piece of protective gear and you get the same answers. From “I don’t like feeling so restricted” and “it screws up my balance” to the answers so egotistical it’d make Trump blush, like “I never fall here.” 

I believe the most valuable asset we have as a community with limited resources is our ability to share our experiences with people around the globe and learn from each other. Running Blader Union allows me the opportunity to try bringing a little more attention to people like Matt and Denis who are doing just that. So listen to Denis tell his story in his own words and consider how many times falling a fraction of an inch in the wrong direction could’ve left you in his position, pissing blood, rushing off to the hospital, and ending up with a catheter for nine months, while you wait for it to heal so you can undergo surgery.

Nobody reading this article wants to spend the better part of a year going through that nightmare. If you’ve made it this far and still haven’t at least considered heading over to Amazon to look into buying yourself a cup yet, well, you’ll have nobody else to blame should you ever find yourself in his shoes.

This is not a pleasant topic for an article, and truth be told, Denis deserves more time spent acknowledging the work he put into skating for this section in Pitcher 2 than he got from me here today. Denis came back from a devastating injury to make his profile and proved that he’s still skating with as much passion as ever even if, by his own admission, it’s made him a bit more cautious. But the subject is worth discussing and rollerblading is better off with people like Denis stepping up to the community and sharing the unpleasant details of his experience.

Editors note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Denis Raby’s injury as a testicular one. The article has been updated to reflect that he suffered a ureteral injury.

Pitcher 2 can be viewed in it’s entirely below: