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Protection From the Sun

The following is drawn from an article by Lawrence Whittaker and Alan Pidcock in The Croquet Gazette 2001. Please send comments to the Equipment Committee.

Depletion of the ozone layer has caused an increase in the intensity of UVB (high energy ultraviolet) solar radiation arriving at the Earth's surface. Although the amount of UVB reaching our skins is much less than the amount of UVA, it is 1000 times more damaging for a given quantity. Medical opinion now recognises that there is nothing healthy about a suntan and identifies over-exposure to UV radiation as the principal cause of the doubling of the incidence of skin cancer - now the second most common cancer - over the past 20 years. Skin cancer is a significant cause of death even in otherwise healthy 26-35 year-olds. Celts with fair Type 1 skin (always burns, never tans) are at particular risk and the hours between 11am and 3pm are the most hazardous. Prudent croquet players may wish to take evasive action!

Fortunately, there are a number of simple things that can be done to minimise the risk. Items 1 and 2 highlight avoidance measures; items 3 and 4 outline methods of protection.

1. Take a long lunch break!

2. When not in play sit in the shade. Remember that only half the radiation comes directly from the sun; the remainder comes from the sky, so umbrellas are less useful than trees or structures which block out a significant portion of the sky. The provision of shade for out-players is highly desirable and is commended as a serious issue, particularly for clubs on the tournament circuit. Most clubs have provided shelter from rain, but this is not always a suitable protection from the sun. Tent-like gazebos are relatively inexpensive and can be erected quickly where the site is suitable.

The on-court player will often be exposed to full sun, but then there is, perhaps, an incentive for quicker play and longer breaks.

3. In the category of protection, our strongest recommendation is to cover a reasonable maximum of body area with clothing. Wide brimmed hats are especially recommended and arms and legs should be covered. Close-weave fabric offers more protection than open weave, and we would expect natural fibres to be better than untreated synthetics. Manufacturers may sometimes treat fabrics with UV-absorbing material to improve their performance still further. Wet fabrics offer less protection than dry and, unfortunately for croquet players, dark colours are better than white. Although we are at present required to wear predominantly white clothing for tournaments, it would seem better to wear coloured clothing for ordinary club play. Although some clothing is advertised with a claimed sun protection factor (SPF), there is at present no British Standard to substantiate the claims. Despite this lack of quantitative assurance, there is no doubt that suitable clothing gives a high level of protection with little inconvenience or discomfort. It is to be hoped that a reliable labelling scheme will be forthcoming in the not too distant future.

The eyes are susceptible to various forms of attack by solar ultraviolet and the use of sunglasses to BS 2724:1987 is recommended. Wearers of prescription spectacles with glass lenses already have a good degree of protection.

4. If the advice on clothing is followed, only relatively small areas of skin will remain unprotected, and for these the use of a sunscreen lotion is recommended. They are rated in terms of sun protection factor (SPF) and a lotion of SPF 15 enables the user to stay in the sun 15 times longer provided that the amount used is the same as that in the rating test (2 mg per sq. cm; a quarter of a bottle per application for a bikini clad figure!) and that it is left on top of the skin and not rubbed in. Application an hour before exposure is also recommended. Most people use very much less than the proper amount and currently users of sunscreens have a greater risk of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, than non-users, probably because they overestimate the degree of protection their thinner coating of lotion provides. It is suggested that the nominal SPF rating is divided by three to allow for a more typical rate of application.