Rules of Roller Derby

Before reading the rules in depth watch this short video:

Most current roller derby leagues use rules developed by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA).[73] These rules undergo review and revisions of the ruleset are published as needed. A summary of the WFTDA rules (as of 23.8.10) follows:

Roller derby takes place on a circuit track. Offense and defense are played simultaneously.[74] The two teams playing send five players each onto the track — one jammer (scorer), three blockers (defense), one pivot (a blocker who may become the jammer later in that jam). Helmet covers are used to display the players’ positions: a cover with two stars is used for jammers, a striped cover is used for pivots and no cover is used for blockers.

Pivots and blockers from both teams start the game by forming a single pack. In a pack, all players face counterclockwise. The track has two lines marked across the track 30 feet apart, a pivot line and a jammer line around which the players build their initial formation.

Pivots line up on the pivot line and all blockers must line up behind them in any order they choose. The two jammers, who are not considered to be part of the pack, are positioned on the jammer line 30 feet behind the pivot line.

The referee signals the start of jam formation by blowing a whistle. During jam formation, the entire pack moves counterclockwise, during which time players can change position. All pivots/blockers must remain in the pack (i.e., no more than 20 feet in front of or behind the largest group containing blockers from both teams ). When the last person in the pack has passed where the front of the pack was initially lined up, the referee blows the whistle twice, signaling the jammers to take off, and play begins in earnest with a jam.

A Charm City All Stars blocker (Baltimore, Maryland) vs. a Rhode Island Riveter (Providence) jammer.

A jam is a 2-minute countdown period during which both teams attempt to score points. Points can only be scored by the jammers, who, moving counter-clockwise, attempt to pass the pack and lap around as many times as possible. After passing the pack the first time, jammers earn one point each time they legally pass an opposing blocker/pivot. During a jam, all pivots/blockers must remain in the pack. Pivot/blockers attempt to assist their jammer through and out of the pack while simultaneously stopping the opposing jammer from exiting the pack. If a pivot/blocker falls or otherwise becomes separated from the pack, she is out of play (i.e., cannot block or assist the jammers) until she rejoins to the pack.

The first jammer to legally pass all pivots and blockers once the jam begins wins the status of lead jammer for the remainder of the jam. The lead jammer can decide to end the jam at any time before the 2 minutes are up. She does this by placing her hands on her hips repeatedly, which signals the referee to officially call off the jam.

After a lead jammer has been established, both jammers have the option of passing their positions to their teams’ respective pivots (passing the star). This is done by removing the 2-star helmet cover and handing it to the pivot. The pivot then becomes the jammer, and the jammer becomes a blocker for the remainder of the jam. If the original jammer was the lead jammer, the position of lead jammer is not passed on; the position is forfeited for the remainder of the jam.

Demanda Riot, a Bay Area Derby Girl (San Francisco, California) prepares to block.

To impede the progress of the opposing team’s jammer, players may block using body parts above the mid-thigh, excluding forearms, hands, and head. Elbows may not be used in blocking, and cannot be swung at other players or used to hook an opponent’s or teammate’s arm.

Each game consists of two 30-minute periods. At the end of each jam, teams field another line up of players and the next jam starts exactly 30 seconds later.

Penalties are given to skaters who skate or block illegally, engage in misconduct, and for other illegal procedures. Penalties can be minor or major. Four minor penalties accumulated by same player or a major penalty leads to the player being sent to a penalty box for 1 minute (during which the opposing team may score 1 point for each skater in the penalty box as soon as they score their first point in each pass). The time spent in the box by a jammer can be less than 1 minute if a given set of circumstances occur.

Skaters will foul out after 7 visits to the penalty box and cannot return to play. Egregious acts of misconduct, including all fighting or attempted fighting lead to explusion, wherein the skater must leave the gaming arena and can not return until play is over. Skaters may also receive additional game suspensions or other disciplinary action for such actions.

Reference Wikipedia

73 ^ Ross, John (2006-04-13), “Demolition Derby”, Columbus Alive,, retrieved 2007-01-19

74 ^ An account of a Bend, Oregon bout with an emphasis on the strategy of the game. “Rolling Along”, Bend Bulletin, 2009-04-14

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