Skin in the Game
In every sports fan’s life, there comes the devastating, disconcerting moment when you realise that you’re past it. Players half your age start making their debuts. Competitors ten years your junior win titles. You are forced to confront the reality that in fact, you probably won’t make it onto the tour, into the side, or through qualifying. No matter that you never consciously or logically dreamed of ‘making it’, it is still a bitter pill to swallow.
Fortunately, there is much more to sport than the professional ranks, and, at risk of lapsing into cliché, it is true that it is never too late to get into or stay in sport. Naturally, certain sports lend themselves to longer participation than others. The R&A, the custodian of the rules of golf, actively promotes the game as being “A sport for life, which can be played and enjoyed by people of all ages, backgrounds and levels of ability.”
But sports can only be ‘for life’ as long as they are practiced safely. Many sports have made massive recent strides in this respect. In extreme sports from climbing to skiing, protection, in the form of helmets, for example, is second nature. Cricketers wear pads and boxes and helmets to protect themselves from impact. Rugby players wear mouthguards as standard. Concussion protocols are being constantly reviewed across multiple sports. What’s often much harder is to convince people to protect themselves from less obvious, less visible risks.
Recent research conducted by SMS on behalf of the Melanoma Fund revealed a concerning carelessness among UK golfers when it comes to the risk of skin cancer and precautions that can help protect their skin. Only 42% of surveyed golfers use sunscreen when the weather demands it, and nearly 30% admitted that they actively avoid sun protection in favour of a tan.
With melanoma rates doubling in the UK in the last thirty years and poised to reach nearly half a million global cases by 2040, it has never been more important to understand and protect against the risk. It is a cause that Slip! Slap! Swing! has been set up to champion. Richard Payne, SMS Director, is an ambassador for the charity, which aims to change golfer behaviour on an individual level as well as encourage golf courses to get Sun Protection Accredited.
Reflecting on the vital importance of the campaign, Richard commented:
“Often, sadly, it has taken a public tragedy to provoke change in sport. The death of Natasha Richardson transformed the conversation about ski helmets. The death of Philip Hughes has led to prototype helmet designs in an attempt to ensure nobody else suffers in the same way. Golf has fortunately escaped this so far, although numerous players, including Justin Thomas and Adam Scott, have had scares. The challenge is to convince golfers to individually and collectively change their attitude to sun protection before a high- profile tragedy kickstarts the conversation.”
Done right, sport can not only extend life, but enhance it. Whether on the fairways or on the court or on the waves, a life with sport can be significantly richer than a life without it. Protecting yourself to ensure that your sports career and your life are as long as possible comes with no drawbacks and many benefits.
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