Ask roller derby blocker Emmaline Swenor to name the toughest sport she has ever played and the answer comes quick: Cheerleading.
Before discovering roller derby, Emmaline was cheering for Brock University when she suffered a serious concussion. It was the latest in a long line of cheer-related injuries over the years that included seven previous concussions and multiple sprains. Following concussion number eight, Emmaline made the difficult decision to hang up her pompoms for good, but dearly missed being part of a team dynamic.
So she decided to give roller derby a try.
“It’s the best decision I ever made,” says Emmaline, 23, now in her second year with Hammer City Roller Derby (HCRD), where her skater name is Emma Let You Finish. “It’s an incredibly supportive group and I love working towards a common goal with these amazing athletes.”
Her job as a blocker is to prevent the other team from scoring by taking hits. “Roller derby has helped me get into the best shape of my life,” says Emmaline, who has since transferred from Brock to McMaster University where she studies social work. “Roller derby is a great cardio workout, and I’m also motivated to do cross training because I want to be better and stronger for my team. And as far as injuries go, I’ve gotten way more from cheerleading than from roller derby.”
Emmaline’s healthy lifestyle choices include staying up-to-date with Pap tests and getting the HPV vaccine since HPV is the cause of cervical cancer.
HCRD is teaming up with the Regional Cancer Program to promote cervical cancer screening. The Ontario Cervical Screening Program (OCSP) recommends that eligible women get a free Pap test every three years through their healthcare provider, such as a family doctor or nurse practitioner. Pap tests are recommended for women ages 21 to 69 who have ever been sexually active. Pap tests are also recommended for members of the LGBTQ community who were born with a cervix.
“Cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable, but it means staying up-to-date with Pap tests,” says Dr. Dustin Costescu, Regional Colposcopy/Cervical Lead and an Assistant Professor and Family Planning Specialist at McMaster University. “A Pap test looks for signs of cancer before it starts, and we can treat those signs so that people never go on to develop cervical cancer.”
Most cervical cancers are found in women who never had a Pap test, or were screened less often than recommended by Ontario’s cervical screening guidelines.
“By staying up-to-date with Pap tests – and encouraging others to do the same — I’m part of a movement to help wipe out cervical cancer through screening,” says Emmaline. “Plus, I really want to have children someday, so reproductive health is extremely important to me.”