We’ve all had a summer match or two where the temperature was over 110 F on the court, and you went to three looooong sets… Well, obviously we survived, but I have no doubt that we could have played safer.
Counting tennis, swimming, gardening, and other outdoor activities, I can spend up to 10-15 hours a week in the sun, and in this Texas summer heat (and at my age), it can really take its toll.
So if you’re like how I used to be, these are some things which may not sound very important, but take my word for it… they are:
Protect your skin
Wearing sunblock is essential for athletes since sweaty skin burns at lower UV light levels. I recently had a couple of benign moles removed because of my decades-long, I-don’t-give-a-shit-about-sunscreen attitude, but that’s in the past. I now wear a 30 SPF every time I step onto a court.
According to Dr. Brian Adams, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Cincinnati and a consultant for the WTA tour
“Tennis players should use a minimum SPF of 30 and recognize that even ‘sweat-proof’ varieties need to be reapplied frequently, as often as once per hour during periods of intense sweating.”
Adams also recommends wearing moisture-wicking clothing to cut down on sweat, and using spray sunscreen to avoid a greasy grip.
Do you think a visor or a hat is enough eye protection? Not according to Dr. Samir A. Shah, a cornea and external disease specialist at Henry Ford Ophthalmology in Detroit. He warns that
“Leaving eyes unprotected can lead to the development of eye diseases like pinguecula, pterygium, cataracts and macular degeneration.”
To protect your eyes from reflective court surfaces and direct glances into the sun during serves and overheads, Shah recommends that players should wear sports sunglasses that block most high-energy visible or HEV light, and 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays.
Skin and eye damage aren’t the only risks that come with working out in the sun. You also need to watch out for things like dehydration, heat stroke and heat exhaustion. To prevent them, take frequent cool-down breaks in the shade (if there is any), and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to replace fluids and electrolytes. I always have a large water bottle filled with a half Pedialyte/half gatorade mix, as well as plain water with me on the court.
Michael Bergeron, Ph.D., a WTA hydration consultant, advises drinking a liter of a sports drink and a half liter of water for each hour of tennis.
“Strong thirst may be a sign that you’re already 2 to 3 percent dehydrated. A 1 percent level of dehydration can decrease athletic performance; 3 percent could put you in the high risk zone for heat illness.”
Most importantly, listen to your body, and stop playing immediately if you get chilled or nauseous, and avoid the sun between 10 A.M. and 4 P.M., when the sun’s rays are strongest.