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Heat stress in tennis
In January 2014, the heat took over centre court and the rest of the grounds during the first week of the Australian Open in Melbourne. Following days of scorching hot weather and air temperatures nearing 43°C, play was suspended for several hours when the ‘Extreme Heat Policy’ was invoked. This entailed a stoppage in play, except that sets in progress had to carry on until completion, along with closing of the roofs over the arenas so that some matches could continue. The stoppage of play, however, occurred only after a plastic bottle had reportedly started melting on court, a ball boy and a male player fainted, a female player experienced cramping and vomiting and several notable players voiced their concerns regarding the appropriateness and safety of continuing to compete in such conditions. Further examination of the rules governing the suspension of play is seemingly warranted, in the context of balancing players’ health and performance. This sequence of events played out on the international stage in Australia is mirrored each year around the world in numerous other much lower profile events, consistently and convincingly demonstrating the challenges and consequences of competing under excessive heat stress. Arguably, the current guidelines and practices for effectively and safely playing tennis in the heat, or the thresholds to suspend play, may not be adequate and sufficiently evidence based.
Competitive match-play tennis is multifactorial, underpinned by an integrated array of complex physiological, biomechanical, cognitive and psychological processes. Players must have an appropriate balance of particular physical attributes such as speed, agility, power, muscular endurance and a high level of overall aerobic fitness, as well as a keen-sustained capacity to constantly anticipate, quickly react and make numerous ongoing split-second decisions.1 When undertaken in hot and/or humid conditions, all of these essential processes are challenged, with further …
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