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Skin Cancer and Outdoor Sports: Don’t Get Burned Playing Pickleball in the Sun

men's sun hat with UPF 50Although this site is all about having fun playing pickleball, we wanted to take a few moments to talk about a more serious topic.  Now that summer is officially here, with that comes long, sunny days and more hours playing pickleball under the sun.

In the past few years, there have been 4 cases of skin cancer in my extended family including 3 cases of Basal Cell Carcinoma and 1 case of Melanoma!

Fortunately,  all of our family members have recovered fully but it was definitely a wake-up call for all of us.   Luckily there are so many convenient products on the market now that there really is no excuse (old habits and laziness are not valid excuses!) to play in the sun without proper protection.

Let’s face it, nowadays there is enough info out there that we all know we should be much more careful out in the sun but sometimes it takes a strong reminder to change habits.

Here are some shocking facts:

  • One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.
  • Over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.
  • Over 85% of melanomas can be attributed to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun

Easy Steps To Protect Yourself:

  • Avoid the sun between 10 AM and 4 PM
  • Do Not Burn
  • Wear wide brim hat or visor
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, if possible clothes with built-in SPF.
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses with 100% UV Protection.
  • SPF of 30 or higher to all exposed areas 30 minutes before heading outside to play Pickleball.

Good wrap-around sunglasses are a must for me when playing pickleball. I’ve gotten so used to wearing sunglasses that I rarely take them off at all anytime I am out in the sun (especially after being told by my eye doctor to wear 100% UV protection sunglasses.

Click here to see the best tennis sunglasses for outdoor pickleball,

The best style for pickleball or other outdoor sports like tennis are wraparounds that protect the sides of your eyes. They offer full protection from the sun and help give you a clearer vision on the court (since they eliminate glare from side-light leaking in.

Apart from that, it’s just good added protection to prevent injury if you ever get hit by a stray pickleball ball or even partner’s paddle near your eyes during an intense rally.

For me, the best 2 things invented for sun protection in recent years have been 1) Spray Sunscreen and 2) fabric with built-in SPF.   I absolutely hated putting on sunscreen (just ask my wife).  I can’t stand the greasy feeling of sunscreen lotion all over my body.  I’m also a big guy (6’4”) so there’s a lot of ground to cover and it always just felt like a messy operation.  Continuous spray sunscreen has been a godsend.  It goes on easy, it’s transparent and there is no slimy mess.

Continuous spray sunscreen comes in a metal can, is easy to spray on and is transparent. The best thing is you don’t have to get messy or even get lotion on your hands since you just spray it on directly.

My favorite brands are Australian Gold and Kiss My Face but Banana Boat also makes a popular and affordable spray.  Cancer prevention recommends 30 SPF or more. To be safe I always buy SPF 50 and reapply after 2 hours playing in the sun.  They recommend applying 30 mins before you go out in the sun so it’s best to apply.

The next great invention is clothing with SPF protection built in the fabric.  This is an easy way to add protection. My first experience with these clothes was several years ago with a wide brim hat with SPF 50.  Newer lines of clothing have come out and there are some really nice lightweight and soft fabrics that have the SPF.  I now buy these as gifts for friends and family (I just recently got my Dad one of these shirts for father’s day.

There are also some nice long-sleeve athletic shirts that are nice for playing pickleball. I originally thought it would be uncomfortable to play in long sleeves but actually, the breathable material keeps you cool and they really do recommend covering your arms when out in the sun. I now play in long sleeves even on sunny warm days.

Another important piece of clothing is a hat or visor to protect your head and neck. Luckily you now find these with SPF built-in.  It’s important to choose a hat that has a wide brim to help shade your face, neck, and shoulders as much as possible. See our top picks for men’s sun hats and women’s hats and sun tennis visors.

My friends say I look like a goofball with my floppy wide-brim hat on the pickleball court but to be honest with you I really don’t care. At my age, I’ve come to the conclusion that my health and longevity are much more important than style or other people’s opinion of me.

After seeing my father, father-in-law and a sister who got skin cancer (while still in her 40s) I decided that protecting myself from UV rays was a top priority.  I’d much rather look like a dork in my 50s if it helps in anyway to keep me healthy and active -hopefully into my 60s, 70s and beyond.

pickleball hat

My hat there in the photo may not be your style but now there are so many options for men’s and woman’s hats, I’m sure you can find a hat or visor with SPF that fit’s your own personal style.

So, get out there and enjoy the summer sun and play lots of outdoor pickleball- but please take the time to take a few precautions. There are now so many options available (especially the easy spray sunscreen and SPF clothing) there really is no excuse to go out in the sun unprotected anymore.  I’ve learned my lesson after having multiple family members suffer thru skin cancer and now take all the precautions I can while still enjoying the outdoors (especially pickleball)…and hope you will do the same!

Remember Sunscreen (30+ SPF) 30 mins before going out, reapply after 2 hrs. Cover up your head with a hat and protect eyes with UV protection glasses….and stay out of the sun in the middle of the day! Pickle on…





About Dan Langston

With experience in the ecotourism industry and time well spent as a fly fishing guide in the remote absaroka mountain range for 6 years, Dan brings a unique perspective on customer service to the digital world. As the operator, Dan is now committed to revitalizing Pickleball Portal and plans to build a digital support system for content creators and provide helpful information for the pickleball community. dan@pickleballportal.com

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