As a tennis player, you compete and practice in mostly sunny locations, experiencing an extraordinary amount of ultraviolet rays. Some of the benefits of spending time in the sun's rays include:
- Strengthening bones by activating Vitamin D
- Providing therapeutic benefits for some skin conditions
- Offering psychological benefits by providing a sense of well-being
As a tennis player, however, you endure a much greater risk of the unpleasant effects of the sun. Some of these unfortunate side effects include:
- Burning of the skin: a tan is your body's sub-optimal attempt to protect itself from harmful rays. No tan is a good tan
- Pre-mature aging as the sun destroys skin causing it to lose elasticity and sag into fine lines and wrinkles
- Discoloration of skin into unsightly dark sunspots
- Developing pre-cancerous lesions and potentially skin cancer
Why are Tennis Players at Risk for Sun Related Skin Effects?
- Unfortunately, you often compete and practice between 10 am and 4 pm, the peak sun damage hours
- An hour of profuse sweating removes any water/sweat-proof sun block you've applied and increases your chances of sunburn. Studies show that it takes half as much sun to burn you when you sweat
- Tennis courts (especially lighter colored ones) reflect ultraviolet rays back to your face from the ground. Simply wearing a hat won't help you keep your skin safe in these situations
- Many players like to wear white clothing to keep them cool while playing. White clothing (that is not specifically made with sun protection) allows more sun rays to hit the skin than darker colored clothing
- The damage of the sun is often silent until 20-30 years later in life. If you play at 5,000 feet, the sun is 20% more intense! Also, locations near the Equator receive much more intense sun
Key Skin Cancer-Facts for Tennis Players
- Types of skin cancer are: Basal, Squamos cell, & Melanoma are all caused by too much sun
- Skin cancer is the most common cancer of all cancers
- Melanoma is the most common cause of death from cancer in women ages 25 to 30
- Melanoma is curable greater than 95% of the time IF CAUGHT EARLY
- Early detection is key; perform self-exams and visit the dermatologist regularly
Avoid Common Sun Safety Mistakes on the Tennis Court
- Put sunblock on your ears first (don't forget the inside-not just the tops of the ears)
- A hat protects you from the sun above but not from reflection off the court; you still need face sunblock
- Use white clothing that has the technical feature of having high UPF (ultraviolet protection factor)
- Don't forget sunblock for your lips (Try a special lip balm with SPF 30 or greater)
- You can still get a sunburn when it is cold and/or cloudy
- Darker skin players need to embrace sun safety habits as well; the darkest skin only provides a SPF 3!
- NEVER, NEVER, NEVER use a tanning bed. A tan gives you only SPF 2
Sun Safety Tips
- Wear SPF 30, sweatproof, waterproof sunblock that blocks UVA & UVB
- Look for sunblock that says it has helioplex, zinc oxide, or titanium oxide
- Apply sunblock 30 minutes before going out in the sun (it takes that long to become effective)
- Sunblock comes as lotion, cream, sticks, and sprays; all are effective, use your favorite...just use it!
- Use SPF 30 or higher sunblock on your lips before any sun exposure and to prevent most coldsores (herpes), reapply every hour
- Remember: after 1 hour of sweating, dry your skin off with a towel and reapply your sunblock
- Look for clothing that has UPF 30 or greater; UPF is like SPF but refers to sun protection from clothing
- Wear a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses
"It is so important to protect my skin from the sun. Especially as a tennis player, I'm in the sun all the time."Eugenie Bouchard
How to Select Sunscreen
Selecting which sunscreen to buy at the store can be very difficult. Most consumers are unable to decode sunscreen lingo found on bottles. Do you know the meaning of terms like "broad spectrum" and "SPF"? If not, here is a little help:
- Broad Spectrum (FDA meaning): the sunscreen can protect you from the sun's harmful ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays
- SPF: How well a sunscreen protects you from sunburn. To simplify things, you may want to think of the sun protection factor (SPF) as the "sunburn protection factor"
Another confusing thing about SPF is the number that follows it. This number tells you how much UVB light (the burning rays) a sunscreen can filter out. Here's what the science tells us about how much UVB light different SPF's can filter out:
"Supergoop! was really the first formula I tried that was 50 SPF and allowed me to be in the sun for up to 90 minutes without feeling any burning effects, without getting it in my eyes and feeling like it was irritating me."Maria Sharapova
- SPF 15: 93% of the sun's UVB rays
- SPF 30: 97% of the sun's UVB rays
It's important to know that no sunscreen can filter out 100% of the sun's UVB rays. Again, that's why it's important to also wear protective clothing and seek shade.
Have fun and be safe out there.