Sun Protection

As a Beach Tennis player you regularly find yourself in a warm, sunny environment, often for extended periods of time, because many beach tennis tournaments take place in exotic destinations where the sun is shining.

There are several positive effects to spending time in the sun:

- Boosts your spirits and sense of well-being.
- Sunlight helps to strengthen bones by activating Vitamin D production.
- Provides therapeutic and psychological benefits.

But, sun exposure has a down side, including burning and premature ageing of the skin, skin cancer and damage to your skin, lips and eyes.

Sun… friend or foe?

The most dangerous locations for sun damage are high altitudes, proximity to the equator and parts of the world where there is thinning of the earth’s atmosphere and protective ozone layer (e.g. Australia and New Zealand).

- For every 1,000 feet increase in altitude, the sun’s intensity increases by 4%.
- Damage from the sun can also occur on overcast days that are foggy and/or cloudy.
- Between 30-60% of potentially damaging UV radiation penetrates through to the earth on overcast days.

You should always be aware of the local UV index, which is often provided on weather reports. This is a number from 1-10 that offers a guide to the potential exposure to harmful UV radiation. The higher the number, the more likely your skin will be damaged by the sun and the time it takes a fair skinned person to burn decreases as the UV index increases:

Sun… dangers and risks

Premature Ageing and Wrinkles

- Tan today becomes the wrinkles and “brown spots” of tomorrow.
- Sun damage is silent and appears after many years of repeated sun exposure.
- Skin loses its elasticity and sags, which causes excessive wrinkles in the future.
- Sun spots – darker and irregular skin pigment.
- Protection from UV radiation can help prevent the development of premature ageing and skin damage.

Sun Damage

- Sunburn can cause discomfort, including swelling and blistering of the skin that will affect your training and on-court performance.
- Sun allergy (also known as sun/heat rash) is a reaction to sun exposure and you develop redness, bumps, hives or blisters. Some drugs, perfumes and cosmetics can exacerbate this problem.
- Eyes can become damaged from over-exposure to the sun.

Skin Cancer

- Basal, squamous cell and melanoma are cancers of the skin.
- Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer, caused by childhood sunburn, excessive and long-term exposure to the sun. If not detected and removed, melanomas can grow into the deeper layers of the skin from where they may spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver or brain. Here they cause damage and may cause death.
- A melanoma looks a bit like a freckle. It may be a variety of colours, including black, blue, brow or red. They are usually flat to begin with but often become raised as they grow.
- Tennis players as young as 18 years old have been known to develop skin cancer, requiring surgery and chemotherapy.
- People with all skin types are susceptible, but fair complexions are most at risk.

Sun protection tips

Always take necessary precautions when you are in the sun. This includes:

- Wearing clothing with UV Sun Protection Factors, to cover arms, trunk and legs (just as important as covering your face and neck – melanomas are most commonly found on the lower legs in women and on the back in men).
- Wearing a hat that breathes and UV sunglasses to protect the face and eyes.
- Applying a water-resistant sunblock to the skin, min. SPF 15 – apply it when you first get out of the shower in the morning or otherwise about 30 minutes before going out into the sun – it should also be reapplied at least every 2 hours.
- Using extra sun protection between 10am and 4pm – this is the most dangerous time of the day for sun damage.
- Knowing your skin – see your doctor or skin specialist (dermatologist) if any moles change in appearance or if you notice any unusual blemishes on your skin.

Sun Cream – which one?

Always check the label – not all products marketed as sun protection are effective!

- Sunblock or Sunscreen? Sunscreen filters the sun – Sunblock blocks the sun.
- Look for products with a high degree of protection (SPF 15-30).
- Choose a broad spectrum sunblock that blocks both UVA and UVA radiation.
- Key ingredients to look out for in Sunblock: Zinc & Titanium Dioxide.
- Look for Sunblock that is non-comedogenic – it means it won’t cause acne.
- Pay attention to forgotten areas when applying sunblock: #Ears  #Lips #Back of neck #Back of legs #Eyelids #Hair parting.

The information provided above is for information purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological, health care or health management advice.  If you have any health or related questions or concerns please contact your medical advisor.

Reproduced by kind permission from the WTA Tour.