Your Body Is Your Body

Your Body Is Your Body

This piece tries to provide a practical tool for overcoming machismo, internalized norms, and other patterns that can lead to physical injury to the player’s body.

I have injured myself larping, and I know several other larpers, often men who have hurt themselves during larps. Often, this was due to taking physical risks and then downplaying the severity of the injury or hiding it altogether. Using the tools described here will help you both make more risk-aware decisions and overcome any learned response you have to downplay or to hide injury. Accidents can still happen, but we can decrease their likelihood by not creating circumstances that contribute to them.

Preventing Injury

Preventing injury is about both taking an internal stock of your body’s weak points and being honest with yourself. This means not looking at your body as you wish it was, but at the way it is when the larp starts. If the larp is some time away you might even have time to lessen your injury risk through training, if you decide it’s both important and possible for you. The other part is taking external stock of what risks will be present at the larp site or the way the larp is organized.

  • Is my body at the start of the larp in worse shape than I am used to? Do I have an old injury that hasn’t healed yet? Do I have chronic issues like weak ankles or night blindness? Will these be an issue at the venue?
  • Are there reasonable, easy to use assistive devices I need at the time of the larp? Use them. My experience as a player and designer has shown me that everyone has a better experience when they’re used, larp cultures notwithstanding, and that the impact on the game is minimal. Examples can be CPAP machines or glasses, braces or walking sticks.
  • Do the activities my character performs during the larp have inherent risk? Fighting, heavy lifting, roaming the forest at night? Will you work tools which are unfamiliar to you? If you have time before the larp, you can manage these risks by training for these activities.
  • Make a plan. If you know there is a possibility you might hurt yourself, making a plan can work like a promise to yourself. If you are going with a group you can share the plan with the group. It can be something like this: “I will use my knee brace to prevent injury and I will ask the group to remind me in the mornings to put it on.” or “If I hit my head I will go to Martin and have it checked out”. Plans also make it more likely that we’ll do the right thing in the moments right after an injury.

Reacting to Injury

So an injury has happened. First comes the pain, and then you may get overwhelmed by feelings of anger, disappointment, or even shame. Will you be able to stay in character? Will you be able to even stay at the game? Maybe the organizer team will force you to go home? For some people in this moment it can be a reflex to pretend as if nothing happened, that they are “fine”, or to downplay the injury and refuse to accept help. I’ve also seen the reaction to immediately spring into action and run for the first aid station. This can make a concussion or a foot injury worse because the player didn’t want to be the one to disturb other players or a scene. Here are some things you can do instead:

  • Remind yourself your real body was just damaged. Your body is your body and self care comes first. That means that the larp can pause for a few seconds, or longer. You taking a few seconds to check how you were hurt might not even disrupt the game. Questions to ask:
      • Are your airways affected?
      • Are you bleeding anywhere?
      • Is there intense pain or numbness anywhere, especially in joints?
      • Are you going into shock? Rapid breaths, cold hands, high heart rate, nausea.
      • How is your head?
  • If you need help and there are people around, be brave enough to ask for it. It’s very unlikely that anyone will think less of you for this. Accept help from those who come to you and say they want to help. There may be a voice in your head that tells you that shouldn’t burden other people, but please remind yourself that they are here to help.
  • If the larp has a designated first aid area, or a designated first aid person, make your way there, with assistance if needed. For some injuries it’s best if someone walks with you.
  • If you can’t walk then don’t force yourself as that can make an injury worse. Wait for the first aid person responder to come to you. Many sprains will heal faster if secured tightly as soon as possible after they happen.
  • If the event has a first aid person and they want to take you to an emergency room off-site, just let them[1]We’re assuming you’re in Europe, where sane medical care is normal.. If it’s not a problem, you will come back to the larp.
  • Pain is the body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. Many of you live with chronic pain, but if you do, you know when there is extra, uncommon pain. Even if some injuries will heal better if you “walk it off”, this first acute moment is not when you do that. Assess the injury properly first, with help if needed.

If you made a plan in the first step that applies to the injury you sustained, follow the plan. You promised yourself, and maybe your group.

Happy larping — with less time lost to avoidable injuries or unnecessarily prolonged recovery.


References   [ + ]

1.We’re assuming you’re in Europe, where sane medical care is normal.

Authors

Karin Edman
Karin Edman (b. 1980) is a Swedish larp designer with a love for the physicality of larp, and has written of larps like The Witches of Ästad Farm and Vedergällningen.
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