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Hitting the Courts — A Safe Return to Tennis



When the state of Georgia and the world shut down because of COVID-19, working from home, wearing masks, and sheltering in place all became a part of our daily life. We quickly learned the true value of those simple things we take for granted: our friends and family, and restaurant owners whom we support. We also started to miss those things that had become so important to us and started to understand how the game of tennis and league play affect us in so many ways.

ALTA is going to facilitate league play for the summer, but we understand each individual needs to make his or her decision on whether to play. Please continue to check the ALTA website as we will be issuing guidelines when we get closer to the start of league play in June.

As we make our plans for the summer, we have gathered advice from the USTA, CDC, the Emory Sports Medicine team, and other medical professionals. One such professional is Dr. Stephan Esser, a sports and spine physician and a 20-year veteran of the USPTA. Many in the medical community have stated that two of the goals in viral epidemic management and prevention are to reduce viral exposure and practice physical distancing, and to improve immune function of possible hosts while minimizing community harm. Dr. Esser says participating in tennis is an ideal pastime. “Tennis participants can remain on opposite sides of the net, switching on opposite sides from one another.” Dr. Esser says everyone needs to be responsible with safe practices and distancing. He also believes tennis can be advantageous in reducing a person’s viral illness risk and the risk of other diseases. “Remember at this time, you are far more likely to die of heart disease and diabetes than from coronavirus,” says Dr. Esser.  He also points out several other aspects of why there is great value in playing tennis:

  • Moderate physical activity is proven to enhance immune function and reduce risk of upper respiratory illnesses.
  • High heat and high humidity in early scientific papers appear to decrease the transmission rate of COVID-19.
  • Moderate physical exercise increases lung capacity, reducing risk of pneumonia, and decreases blood pressure, cholesterol, and resting blood sugars, all of which otherwise increase the morbidity of COVID-19.
  • Moderate sun exposure increases vitamin D production, which enhances immune function and decreases the risk of upper respiratory illness.

Other health experts say all tennis participants must incorporate standard and best practices to ensure safe and healthy participation. Everyone needs to understand there is a risk of contracting the coronavirus for those who choose to play tennis, so every player needs to be willing to manage and hold responsibility for minimizing risk factors to provide for the best possible outcome in returning to play.

Dr. Neeru Jayanthi is the director of Emory Tennis Medicine. He says anyone with coronavirus symptoms should not play tennis (see below). He believes playing tennis outdoors is less risky than indoors and advises not sharing food or beverages, or having any social contact during tennis play. He says one of the biggest risks of transmission is contact with other people, which increases exponentially when there are more people. “Theoretically, COVID-19 can live on any surface/handle, so I recommend wiping them down after play,” he says. Dr. Jayanthi adds that wearing a headband, sweat bands, and having a towel available can help you prevent touching your face. Following some of the CDC guidelines, he says to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or utilize hand sanitizer before, during, and after play. You also should keep towels, clothes or any other personal belongings in your tennis bag. Dr. Jayanthi and his team will be continuing to see what the trends of COVID-19 transmissions are this summer and will update recommendations for play. In the meantime, this is one other list of questions that should be considered before returning to tennis (see below).

Who Should Return To Tennis?
You have to answer NO to all of the following questions. If you answer YES to any of the following screening questions, you should not consider playing and/or consult with your doctor to assess the risk.

Have you been diagnosed with or been exposed to COVID-19 in the last 4 weeks?

Do you have a cough, fever (>99.0 degrees), shortness of breath, sore throat, body aches, nighttime sweating, diarrhea, or loss of smell in the last 48 hours?

Are you over the age of 65 and/or have any co-morbid health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, or COPD, or smoke or vape?

Do you have any medical condition that causes you to be immunocompromised?

ALTA will continue to track changes and make updated recommendations as we get closer to summer league play, so be sure to check the ALTA website, ALTATennis.org.

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