Make sun protection a year-round tennis habit

By the time you read this article, Memorial Day, the official kick-off to the summer season, will have come and gone.

From local USTA league play, tennis camps, drill sessions, clinics and private lessons, to simply playing social tennis, the sun, an equal opportunity skin scorcher, will be getting hotter while the days get longer.

The result: We'll have more exposure to the sun and its harmful ultra-violet rays.

The Skin Cancer Foundation reports 5 million people are treated annually for skin cancer. And more new cases are reported annually than breast, prostate, colon and lung cancer combined.

It also doesn't discriminate due to age; pediatric melanoma has had an average increase of 2 percent per year, shown by a study done between 1973-2009.

Since the sheer nature of our sport is to play outdoors, using sunscreen is a must to help prevent the occurrence of skin cancer. Here are some suggestions about how to protect yourself from the sun's harmful rays.

Sunscreen:

Use broad spectrum (UVA and UVB), water resistant SPF (sun protection factor) 30 (blocks 97 percent of UV rays). SPF 50 is also suggested (blocks 98 percent of UV rays)

Apply 30 minutes before exposure; reapply every two hours.

Clothing:

Look for clothes with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) of 50 and above. If the fabric says SPF it is not broad-spectrum protection. Many tennis apparel makers offer a variety of clothing and accessories with high UPF factors.

Consider wearing wide brimmed hats (also available with UPF ratings). Baseball type caps aren't designed to protect ears and the back of the neck. These two areas are extremely vulnerable to the sun's harmful rays so don't overlook them.

Sunglasses:

(My opinion on this subject): No matter what, sunglasses that are UV rated should be mandatory when you're out in the sun.

I know many of the touring pros don't wear them, but consider this: the damage done to your eyes by the sun is irreversible, and we do live in a very sunny environment. Protect your eyes, and you'll be grateful way beyond the reaches of the tennis courts.

Although I'm bringing this subject up at summer's start, I encourage you to make it a year-round habit. The sun's UV rays still affect us all year long.

Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio & Youth Tennis Coach who lives and teaches in the greater Bluffton-Hilton Head Island area.


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