“And Knowing is Half the Battle!”
For those of you who may know me or have had me do your equipment check before a scrimmage or bout, you’ve heard me say these words. “Check your toe-stops”. I’ve been around the derby world about a year now and I’ve been a zebra even less. What I can tell you is that I’ve seen a lot of toe-stops come off during game-play.
Fortunately, I haven’t seen anyone trip, fall or become injured due to coming in contact with runaway toe-stops or related hardware. That’s not the point. The point is that a toe-stop or hardware that is loose on the track surface is a hazard and is dangerous to you and the other skaters on the track.
It’s obvious and you all know this. Debris on the track ( i.e. Toe-Stops or hardware ) can cause a skater to trip or fall and become injured. If your jammer is on a power-jam and on her way to scoring the final points to win the game when she trips and falls over someone’s toe-stop… Someone’s going to get upset about this. The coaches, skaters, and fans don’t want to see the action on the flat-track come to a halt over something as simple as this.
The other important point is skater safety. A skater who is unable to stop, or stop effectively becomes a hazard to themselves and others on the track ( officials included ). Collisions, flailing and even falling could occur if one’s equipment fails in this way.
So, now that we’ve identified the problems, what can we offer for solutions?
First of all, I would recommend an occasional “equipment check”. Everyone knows what a bad set of bearings sounds like. Toe stops are often neglected until their condition is in dire need of correction. Have a look at your toe-stops and see if they are wedged to match the angle they meet the floor. They could be due for replacement.
Check the stops themselves by grabbing onto them and giving them a good twist. Did they move? They shouldn’t. Most everyone that skates has a Skate Tool…if you don’t have one, I’m sure you can borrow one from a friend or team-mate. Make them tight!
Next, when an referee or official asks you to “Check your Toe-Stops”. Please, smile nicely and actually ‘check’ your toe-stops. For the time it takes, it could easily save you or another skater from problems on the track.
As for “adjusting” your stops on the fly. I can only respond that opportunities are provided to warm-up skate and check out the track surface and traction prior to actual competition. So, again, please take advantage of this and make necessary adjustments before the bout begins.
Finally, if your toe-stops “come loose on their own”. Then I can recommend the use of a thread-fastener like Loc-Tite ( available from Auto-Parts stores everywhere ). This fluid is designed to do exactly that…keep bolt threads from coming loose. In a worst-case scenario, you may have damaged or worn threads in your plates. The solution for that is new plates. ( remember, worst-case scenario).
From my own personal experience, I know that there are two types of fasteners for toe-stops. The large flat-nut and washer that are fastened with the claw tool and the pinch-bolt style that is fastened with a hex-key wrench. I’ve never personally had any problems with the “hex-key pinch style” fasteners on my own skates and I’ve seen the vast majority of lost toe-stops come from the “nut and washer” fasteners.
At this point, I’m not about to draw any conclusions about which style is better. My goal is to bring attention to this small issue that has a frequent impact on the safety of skaters on the track.
Skate hard, play safe…and “Check your Toe-Stops”!