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The Arrival of Spring: Protect Your Athletes From the Sun


The onset of spring is upon us.  Accordingly, many sport participants are gearing up for another competitive athletic season. Most sports played during the spring, such as baseball, lacrosse, and softball, are played outdoors at athletic facilities. Interestingly, in the United States, an estimated 44 million boys and girls (up to age 18) participate in organized youth sport programs (National Council of Youth Sports, 2008). Therefore, while coaches physically and mentally prepare their athletes for these sporting activities, participants should also receive information about protecting themselves from the sun’s ultraviolent (UV) rays.

Educating athletes about sun-protection is important because skin cancer has become the primary form of cancer in the United States. According to the National Cancer Institute (n.d.), “more than one million people are diagnosed with basal cell and squamous cell (non-melanoma) skin cancer in the United States every year.” These are the two most common types of skin cancer; however melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. “Only about 15 to 20 percent of people with advanced melanoma live 5 years beyond their diagnosis.” (American Cancer Society, n.d.).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate an individual’s unprotected skin can be damaged within 15 minutes of exposure to the sun’s UV rays (n.d). Individuals must realize these UV rays are still present on cloudy days and UV rays reflect off of water, cement, sand, and snow.

This issue has also captured the attention of professional athletes, several of whom agreed in 2010 to work with the Skin Cancer Foundation to sponsor Team SCF, which seeks to educate young athletes about the dangers of skin cancer and about the high incidence of the disease among young athletes.  Readers can read more here. 

Coaches should inform their athletes to wear sun-protective clothing and sunglasses, use sunscreen with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, and limit mid-day (i.e., 10 am to 4 pm) exposure to the sun (American Cancer Society, n.d.). For examples, dark-colored clothes usually provide better protection than light-colored clothing and individuals should wear sunglasses which block at least 99 percent of the UV rays. Furthermore, a hat comprised with a 360-degree brim will provide better sun-protection for a person’s ears and neck than a baseball cap. For additional information concerning the implementation of sun safety activities, refer to the CDC’s Sun Safety for America’s Youth Toolkit.

At last, spring has arrived so coaches make sure to assist your athletes with skill development and physical conditioning in hopes of producing elite athletic performance. In addition, inform your athletes about sun-protection so they can safely enjoy outdoor activities.



  • American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Learn about cancer. Retrieved March 28, 2011, from http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/news/News/ipilimumab-approved-for-melanoma
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (n.d.). May is skin cancer awareness month: Protect your skin. Retrieved March 28, 2011, http://www.cdc.gov/Features/SkinCancer/
  • National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). Cancer trends progress report – 2009/2010 update. Retrieved March 28, 2011, from http://progressreport.cancer.gov/doc_detail.asp?pid=1&did=2009&chid=91&coid=911&mid=
  • National Council of Youth Sports. (2008). Report on Trends and Participation in Organized Youth Sports. Retrieved March 28, 2011, from http://www.ncys.org/publications/2008-sports-participation-study.php

Scott Johnson, EdD, MBA
Dr. Johnson is the Chair of Sports Coaching at the United States Sports Academy. He has a doctorate in sports psychology and master’s degrees in business administration, sports business administration, athletic coaching education, counseling, and sport behavior.



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