Coaching Tip - February 2017

    Playing Tennis in the Hot weather
    What it is?
    And the
    Tips to Avoid Heat Related Illness

    Summer is here and it can get very hot on the Tennis court.
    Tennis competitions and Tournaments should have a Hot weather – usually the wet bulb temperature - policy so that matches will be postponed or cancelled when the key temperature is reached.
    Many Social Tennis players will however still go on court to have a hit regardless of the high temperature.
    They should reschedule their hit to either early morning or later in the evening to avoid a possible heat induced illness.
    Tennis Players can be affected by the heat and/or humidity – heat illness - even if the wet bulb temperature is lower than the cancellation temperature.

    Heat Related Illness
    A Heat related illness is always a possibility when playing Tennis or any other sport out in the sun but particularly in the excessive heat and possibly higher humidity during the Summer months.
    There are three stages to look for as a sign of heat illness
    Heat cramps are the first stage of a heat related illness
    The signs are excessive sweating and/or involuntary muscle cramps (spasms) usually in the abs or the extremities but they can happen anywhere in the body
    The heat cramps are usually a result of excessive loss of fluid and electrolytes but can be caused by a low sodium intake and/or poor or no acclimatisation to the heat.
    The Tennis player should

    • stop playing
    • rest in a cool shady off court location
    • drink cool water and a Sports drink or the like to replace vital electrolytes and fluids
    • start with some gentle stretches to try to ease the spasms but don’t overdo it

    The player and/or Sports trainer should monitor the heat related symptoms and only return to the court
    when things are back to normal.
    The match player may have to forfeit the match if he/she can’t continue and the wet temperature has not reached the cancellation temperature whereas the social player can just cancel the hit and stay in the shade.

    The player may decide to go back on court to continue the match or hit but must be aware of any further developing heat related symptoms i.e. Heat Exhaustion

    Heat Exhaustion is the second stage of a heat related illness
    The body’s thermoregulatory system has gone into overload and can no longer control or regulate the body temperature as is normal.
    The signs for this stage are characterised by excessive sweating, heavy breathing, a rapid pulse and/or fatigue.
    There probably will be other symptoms such as

    • Weakness
    • Dizziness
    • Headaches
    • Excessive thirst
    • Dark coloured Urine
    • And/or Vomiting

    Heat exhaustion is also caused by the body sweating excessively and the resulting loss of fluid and electrolytes and is a serious condition which needs to be treated urgently.
     The affected player should

    • Stop playing immediately
    • Come off court into a cool shady area
    • Seek assistance from a sports trainer if possible or a qualified First Aider
    • The player should lay down so that cold towels used as a blanket cover
    • Cool water and electrolytes in the form of a Sports drink should be drunk regularly

    The match or Social hit should be abandoned and there should be no physical activity for at least 24 hours.
    The player’s condition should be monitored during this time and beyond and if the symptoms continue
    a Sports Medicine Doctor or Physician should be consulted.

    The heat exhaustion symptoms may get more severe and the heat related illness may result in the player suffering from Heat stroke.
    Heat Stroke is the third stage of a heat related illness
    Heat stroke can develop very quickly as an onset from Heat exhaustion and may be life threatening with an urgent medical response required.
    The body’s thermoregulatory system shuts down completely so that the body is no longer able to cool down.
    The following symptoms can develop quickly so the Tennis player may experience

    • Hysteria
    • Irritability
    • Aggressiveness
    • Loss of memory
    • Disorientation
    • A Rapid pulse
    • Rapid respiration rate
    • No or little sweating
    • And/or Red skin which is hot and dry

    If the Tennis player has these symptoms or any of them then an Ambulance or Emergency Medical Personnel should be called and the urgency stated.
    In the mean-time the player needs to be cooled immediately with

    • An Ice Vest, Ice packs in towels or equivalent so that they are not placed directly on the skin
    • Get the Player to have a cold shower or Spray him/her with a hose but check that the water is cool


    • If the above are not available sponge the player with cool water
    • If the player is not very mobile drape cool or wet towels over their body

    Use a portable fan or air conditioner on cool to the same effect

    • If you have a pool available get the player to immerse in the cool water

    The player however must be strictly supervised always

    • Use a cool a bath filled with cool water if available

    During the time waiting for the Emergency services keep plying the player with cool water and Sports drinks to increase the fluid and electrolyte uptake.
    Heat related illness as outlined above can be very serious and it is best to take steps to avoid it affecting you
    when you are on court in the hot weather.

    Avoid Heat related Illness
    Take the following precautions

    • Hydrate well and often

    Drink cool water regularly as part of your daily routine.
    Include your intake of electrolytes by drinking Sports drinks in your fluid intake in the 24 hours before your match or training session and after the session as a replacement to help fluid recovery and to prevent cramps.
    Don’t rely on feeling thirsty just drink before it is too late.

    • Use the correct fluids for replacement

    Water with a mixture of electrolyte enhanced beverages throughout the day is the way to go

    • Increase the salt content in your food and drink particularly before you play or train

    Sodium is the major electrolyte lost through sweating so eat foods and beverages with higher salt content as a sodium replacement i.e. Sports drinks

    • Prepare physically to play in the heat

    Train for a several 1 to 2 hour sessions at the scheduled time before your scheduled match in hot but not extreme conditions.
    These training sessions will help you to get fitter and to better adjust to playing in hot conditions.

    • Use Ice and cold towels

    Bring along a small esky so that you use small ice packs and cool wet towels to help you keep cool during and after the match or training session
    Avoid putting ice directly on the skin, muscles or joints as the ice may burn the skin or cause joint stiffness.

    • Wear appropriate clothing

    Choose light coloured, light weight clothing that breathes i.e. allows the sweat to evaporate quickly so that the body can cool.
    A long sleeve shirt would be a good option on hot sunny days

    • Don’t forget the sunscreen

    Use an approved sunscreen to protect your skin from sunburn which will raise the skin temperature and contribute to heat related illness
    It will also help to prevent future skin cancers.

    • Acclimatise for the Playing conditions

    Players should ideally acclimatise for 7 to 10 days at their tournament or match location particularly if you
    have come from a cooler to a hotter climate for your competition.

    • Stay out of the Sun

    This is obviously not always possible when you are playing a match or have a training session.
    Use the change of ends and the time during a drink break to try to find a small patch of shade from a tree or building to stand in for a few minutes.
    Stay out of the sun when you are off court and not playing.

    • Know your limits

    You may experience the tell-tale signs of heat illness or dehydration during a match or training.

    If you are feeling uncomfortable or out of sorts listen to your body.
    Stop playing and get out of the heat and sun.
    Winning a tennis match or completing a training session is not worth getting a heat related illness.

    Hopefully this tip on Playing tennis in the Hot weather will act as a guide so that you can change your habits and avoid the effect of Heat Related Illness or at the very least recognise the symptoms and have learned how to treat the condition.
    Tennis the game of a lifetime.
    Enjoy the experiences.

    Check out my previous coaching tips on my website.
    Send me an Email if you have any comments.

    Coach Steve