The Dangers of a Re-enactor’s Life
If you re-enact for long enough, you will eventually get injured. This is a risk that re-enactors generally accept in the same way as they except the risk of falling down the stairs or being struck by lightening. Injuries range from the trivial (bruising) to the painful (smashed/lost nails) to the major (broken fingers) to the life changing (loss of eyes, fingers, limbs) and extremely rarely, death.
The Risks in Perspective
There are some tens of thousands of re-enactors in the United Kingdom. Actual deaths or disabling injuries are rare in the extreme, and are usually connected with bad practice or black powder (gunpowder). Lesser injuries are more common. Broken fingers happen to a significant minority of hand-to-hand combat re-enactors. Equally some re-enactors have been fighting for a decade and never suffered a major injury.
To put these risks in perspective, far more injuries happen in camps at events, ranging from a midnight encounter with a road spike that was just the right height, tripping over guy ropes, being hit in the eye by fire sparks and so on.
Prevention of Wounds
There are a range of things that you can do to avoid injuries – trivial or serious:
Most fighters at major events wear cricket boxes (for the gentlemen) or fencing cups (for the ladies), as these protect areas that are particularly vulnerable and painful if hit. Others also conceal modern sports armour protecting knees, shins, forearms, elbows, and sometimes even modern body armour. Gum guards are also an option as dental damage does occasionally happen.
What Not to wear
Glasses. Glasses with glass lenses are something of a hazard, as if they are hit you may be blinded by the shattered glass. The recommendation is to use contacts or do without, even for training, since recently a member of regia angolorum was blinded in one eye. Glasses with plastic lenses are unlikely to be broken by blow that wouldn’t cause major eye trauma without glasses. There is also the usual catching and strangulation risks of jewellery and peircings. Short sleeved shirts are a good way to get lots of little cuts and grazes on your forearms, and slippery footwear is a bit of a hazard (note, though that authenti footwear tends to be slippery, though there are some things you can do to fix this.
Rules Already in Force
Wychwood already has a variety of rules to reduce injuries to members – the wychwood safety gloves (garden gloves padded with camping mat) will substantially reduce damage to the fingers, and the wychwood helmets are very useful. This does not mean that it’s OK to hit people in the head, even by accident.
Although the wychwood gloves offer some protection we recommend that you make or buy better hand protection. There are a number of options either way. Check the kitmaking section of the wiki for help with making gauntlets (and if there’s nothing up, experiment and then write one!)
One of the best ways of avoiding injuries (to you and everyone else) is to attend training regularly. Injuries are always higher immediately after holidays as people get back into the swing of things. Training will help you not to block things with your fingers and help you to pull a blow against someone else if things go awry, and save them an injury.
One of the greatest serious risks of injury is in fact dehydration & overheating, particularly in large long battles. For this one armour is no help at all, in fact it makes matters worse. The way to avoid this is to drink. Water that is. Start taking on water before a long battle event, and drink regularly during the battle. At events waterbearers will be there to water you. If you need water then call for a water bearer. At training in hot weather, bring a bottle of water along. Some re-enactors even carry their own water onto the field in leather canteens. Proper hydration will avoid most cases of overheating. If you become aware of the early stages of heatstroke, then withdraw from the fighting. Usually you would feel a sense of disconnection, intense heat (obviously), your face would go unpleasantly bright red and your eyes would glaze. If you notice someone else behaving strangely and looking badly overheated ask if they are alright – they maybe – but if their response is slurred or incoherent get them to withdraw from fighting and attract the attention of a waterbearer. Remember: Water Is Life.