On days like this past Thursday in Melbourne, the answer is yes. That day, all matches in the Australian Open – the opening grand slam event in pro tennis each year – were suspended because of heat that climbed to 110 degrees F (40+ C).
That’s not sustainable for players or fans; if you happen to be either one, you know that tennis requires you to be out in the sun for hours at a time. But when it isn’t so hot, a larger and less obvious danger remains: how are people protecting themselves from UVA and UVB rays that can cause skin cancer?
In Australia – which as a nation has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world – this isn’t an unusual question. At this year’s Australian Open, officials have passed out sunscreen to fans and stocked it in the locker rooms. And well-known professional tennis players like John Newcombe of Australia and Felix Mantilla of Spain have had very public battles with skin cancer after their playing days were over.
Yet many tennis pros today say they don’t like to wear sunscreen. They cite the same reasons you might as a casual player (or a fan): sunscreen is too slippery; it can feel like it’s blocking the body’s natural cooling process; it gets in your eyes.
Other players, like Australian former world No. 1 player Patrick Rafter (who played a doubles match in this year’s tournament), make it clear that sunscreen is a must. But what else can be done?
A great option that can no longer be overlooked is wearable sun protection.
In 2000, former tennis pro Chris Evert explained to a tennis magazine that her eyes had been permanently damaged by UV rays. Now, UV protective sunglasses and even contact lenses are available for players and fans.
But there’s much more available than that. In the same article, Evert mentioned that players had only recently begun wearing hats while playing. Now there’s a whole range of UPF 50+ sun protective hats in a variety of styles, with features like wide brims, breathable and quick-drying fabrics and removable neck drapes.
In fact, tennis players can now outfit themselves with entire ensembles – complete sun protection from head to foot. This is partly because of increased awareness about the dangers of UVA and UVB rays, and partly because fashion has finally caught up with function.
Is tennis too dangerous? Even if you’re not playing in a prestigious professional tournament watched the world over, the answer should always be a resounding “no.”
Be SunAWARE and Be Safe!