Friday, August 29, 2014

Tennis Players Will Not Fight the UV Rays

It wasn't that long ago that wearing sunscreen was considered to be the type of thing only children and those who were outdoor-phobic would ever do. This was the age of the bronzed body being a symbol of beauty or manhood, showcasing that you were the type who either cared about your appearance or alternatively, worked in the great outdoors. Then, we all learned about UV rays and melanoma and the idea of spending extended times in direct sunlight without any form of protection seemed foolish at best. Sunscreen became ubiquitous, carried by even the most masculine of outdoorsmen and the idea of spending an entire day unprotected was as unhealthy as smoking. We collectively became more informed and in one of the few areas this is true in the modern world, enlightened as well.

That is, except in the realm of tennis. Tennis players still shun sunscreen with surprising frequency according to a story today in the Wall Street Journal. While they still spend large amounts of time in the hottest sunlight, they are hesitant to dab on any form of protection, causing unknown amounts of damage to their skin. The issue according to the article is this:

Tennis players tend to sweat profusely, especially during day sessions at the U.S. Open, where high temperatures and humidity are typical. When the heat mixes with sunscreen, the sweat can form a gooey substance that gets into players' eyes and onto their hands, affecting both their vision and their grip.

With success in tennis literally resting on decisions made in fractions of seconds, anything that could possibly cause an issue in grip, vision or comfort must be shunned.  Thus most players decide to combat the sun with no protection, with one even saying she may be "immune" from the sun. Tomas Berdych summed up the thoughts of many saying,

Berdych scoffed at the potential risks, offering his own version of the "you only live once" theory. If he cared about the possibility of long-term skin damage, he said, "I mean, then I would be concerned about everything. I see two steps and, you know, I could fall down and hit this wall and it would be too much."

The logic in Berdych's thoughts is far from impeccable. The "I could fall down and hit this wall" argument (which would suggest a level of clumsiness that I doubt Berdych currently has) could be applied to anything and would lead one to take no precautions in any form of life. But culture matters, and in the culture of tennis, sunscreen is a non-starter, which is proof that as brilliant as they can look on the court, the decisions can be horrendous off of it.