Longform

Dr. Bang Bang has the cure for what ails Denver's derby dolls

It's nearly 10 p.m. on a Wednesday night, and the Denver Roller Dolls have just finished a punishing scrimmage. The warehouse where they practice smells like a damp locker room as the skaters peel off their knee and elbow pads, wrist guards, bandages and braces.

While a few discuss a late dinner and drinks, others are groaning, nursing the old injuries — or new ones — that are common in roller derby. That's where Dr. Bang Bang comes in.

See also: Photos: See the gruesome roller derby-related injuries fixed by cover girl Dr. Bang Bang

A no-nonsense blocker and jammer on the track, Kimmy Kimmy Bang Bang, whose real name is Kim Wilms, is a foot and ankle surgeon by profession. Tonight, she whooshes past her teammates to the table where she's stashed her supplies. She unlaces her skates, frees her hair from her helmet and begins pawing through a black medical bag. Among the stethoscope, the reflex hammer and the scalpel she uses for shaving calluses, she finds what she's looking for: a fresh needle and two tiny bottles of liquid. One is lidocaine, to numb her teammate's foot. The other is cortisone, to calm her inflammation. Snapping on a white latex glove, she screws the needle onto the plunger and draws a milky liquid out of one of the bottles.

The skater for whom the needle is intended glides over to where Wilms is standing. "Let's get stabbed!" shouts Ariel "Crash Dance" Quigley. Like most of the girls, Quigley is sweaty in her spandex and tank top, one strap of which partly covers a tattoo on her shoulder blade that says, in fabulous '80s airbrush font, "Nobody puts Baby in a corner." And like most of the girls, she's got some aches and pains — in this case, an inflamed bunion near her baby toe.

"No, she's shaving my toe first!" hollers Krystal "Gator Dunn" Sprouse, a long-legged skater who has flopped into one of the hand-me-down easy chairs that take up a corner of the warehouse, affectionately known as the Glitterdome. After examining one of Sprouse's injured fingers, Wilms promises to shave her toe callus the next time. Right now, she has to inject Quigley.

Such is the life of the roller-derby doctor.

A muscular blond bombshell with a sweet smile and a stare that can turn cold in competition, Wilms, who is 32, looks more like a broadcast journalist than a Roller Doll — or a doctor. But her teammates say that hitting her on the track is like running into a wall. Off the track, though, Wilms is quiet and easygoing. She lets her hands and her tools do the talking.

Over the past two years, she's operated on four skaters' broken ankles and helped many others with the sprains, sores and bruises that come with playing the fast-paced contact sport.

For the Denver Roller Dolls, one of the city's two world-class roller-derby leagues, she's like the team's in-house doctor, a medical professional who shares a love for derby and understands the havoc it can wreak on skaters' bodies. And she's critical to their health, especially if the team wants to return this November to the Women's Flat Track Derby Association Championships, which is like the Super Bowl of roller derby.

"She just has exactly the combination of experience and legitimate concern for you that you want," says Caitlin "Muffin" Krause, a former skater who broke her ankle so badly last year that her entire foot twisted around backward, like Linda Blair's head in The Exorcist.

"I don't know if other doctors would understand."

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Wilms first heard about roller derby in the operating room at Rose Medical Center.

"One of the surgical techs started talking about roller derby. And I was like, 'There's such a thing?'" Wilms recalls. It turned out the tech had been a coach for the Dolls, and he encouraged her to look into the sport. That night, Wilms looked up the team online and asked for a tryout. She made it on her first attempt in April 2008 without ever having seen a real bout.

Then again, Wilms had been skating since she was three years old. She grew up in a rural town in northeastern Ohio on a dead-end street surrounded by woods. The second of three kids, she spent her early childhood trying to keep up with her energetic older brother. "I even wrecked on training wheels," she jokes. As she got older, she played nearly every sport offered to girls, including soccer, softball, volleyball, basketball and track. She also took skating lessons at the local roller rink. From the beginning, she wanted to be the fastest. "Roller rinks in the '80s would always have little races with kids your age," Wilms says, "and I had to beat them."

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar