Simmons mixes medicine, roller derby
By Mark Ambrogi
On roller skates, Bree Simmons occasionally delivers pain as her alter ego, The Killer Purple. Off the skates, Dr. Simmons is a healer.
Simmons, 33, has been a sports medicine physician at St.Vincent Sports Performance for three years, splitting time between Clay Terrace in Carmel and St.Vincent Fishers Hospital. Simmons, who lives in Lawrence Township in Indianapolis, is also the team physician for Guerin Catholic High School.
Simmons had been a softball player and gymnast in high school.
“When I went through my medical training, I was overwhelmed and I got sedentary,” she said. “When my schedule started to improve, I had free time for the first time in years. That’s when I decided to pick up a sport again.”
She considered softball and volleyball but an advertisement for open workshops for roller derby caught Simmons’ eye.
“It was sort of on a whim, I gave it a try,” said Simmons, who has been competed in roller derby for four years. “I really fell in love with it.”
She eventually fell in love, too, meeting her husband Nathan Robison, who plays on men’s roller derby team. Simmons plays for the Circle City Derby Girls.
“I have a bout about every two weeks from May through August,” Simmons said. “It’s full contact sport. There are risks. Just last week we had a skater suffer an ankle fracture at our practice. There are a lot of finger injuries from falling on their hands.”
Simmons is a jammer, which she means she is one of her team’s main scorers.
“I don’t normally initiate a lot of hitting,” Simmons said. “Hits are initiated on me because I score points by passing people on the other team. So I’m trying to get through and they’re trying to stop me.”
When Simmons first started to practice, she would wear an old purple T-shirt. People didn’t know her name at first so they would call just call her Purple. Simmons said a teammate suggested The Killer Purple as her Derby name with a nod to the book “The Color Purple.”
“I thought it was appropriate because the book is about female empowerment and overcoming adversity,” Simmons said. “And I can tell people at work my name and not be ashamed.”
Often Roller Derby nicknames have sexual or violent connotations. She said even her husband has wondered whether his pseudonym “One Nate Stand” is appropriate now that he’s married, although she doesn’t mind it.
Simmons plans to compete as long as she can stay healthy.
“It’s an important part of my life, not just because of the fitness I get out of it,” Simmons said. “It’s my social network. This is my family, outside of my work family and my home family. I feel like it’s helped me professionally.”
Simmons has developed a safety protocol for her league. She also has been on the medical staff for two international championships and one World Cup because of her connections in the sport.
“It’s been great for me to get in these high level arenas and practice my occupation,” Simmons said. “It’s helping me be a better sports doctor, too.”