After the long cold winter, we were all longing for some sun on court, but with temperatures in the last few weeks hitting the high twenties and low thirties, is it now just too hot to be playing tennis?
One of our players recently thought so:
“Retired after playing one set of tennis for about an hour, as it was too hot to continue playing – the temperature was about 30 degrees”
It is not only in the amateur game where players feel the knock-on effects of a heatwave. At the Australian Open this year temperatures regularly reached over 40C, and many of the pros were seen complaining of exhaustion and dehydration. Gael Monfils left the court with a doctor part way through his second round match with Novak Djokovic and afterwards said he was “dying on court” as the thermometer readings hit 39C.
We spoke to Jim Pate, a Senior Physiologist at The Centre for Health & Human Performance (www.CHHP.com) and an expert on the dangers of playing in the heat and how it effects your performance.
“A little bit of heat is not necessarily a bad thing. We know that ‘warming up’ before physical activity will help improve performance and mitigate the risk of injury. However, too much heat can negatively impact performance.
When we play tennis in the hot weather, we not only gain heat from the burning of energy to make our muscles contract but also from the surrounding environment. To deal with this heat, we sweat. The evaporation of the sweat from the body cools us down and stops the body overheating. Exercising in hot environments inevitably leads to water loss due to increased sweating, and if more water is lost from the body than we can replace through drinking, dehydration will occur.
Muscle function is impaired by excessive heat and dehydration. Imagine your car engine overheating and running out of coolant at the same time. When playing tennis, this means you will become tired quicker and at a lower intensity. Additionally, fatigue, cramps, slowed reactions and loss of concentration are all associated with too much heat and a drop in performance.
In extreme cases, excess heat can result in more serious conditions, potentially life threatening, like heat exhaustion and heat stroke if not properly managed.Symptoms of heat stroke include a high body temperature, altered mental state or behavior, nausea, flushed skin, a racing heart rate and a headache.
At Local Tennis Leagues we don’t currently have a heat rule in place like the one used at Wimbledon and on the WTA Tour, as it is very rare to have such a prolonged period of hot weather. But it is important to us that you stay safe on the court, so we asked Jim for his tips on how to reduce your risk of suffering from heat related illness:
- Schedule practice and matches earlier in the morning, in the evening, or even at night if courts are lit to avoid the problem altogether.
- If you have to play during the hot part of the day, make sure that you have lots of water with you or possibly even some ice in a cooler. You also lose salts when you sweat so adding an electrolyte tablet to your water bottle or making sure your drink of choice contains them, is also a good measure.
- Make sure you have the right equipment and breathable clothes that are suited to hot weather. Wimbledon whites aren’t just for looking clean. They help keep you cool in the sun as well.
- Finding some shade or a cool place on changeovers is a good strategy during matches.
- Most importantly, if you are feeling overheated and are exhibiting the symptoms of heat illness, stop playing, get out of the heat and cool down as quickly as possible.