Putting sun protection on the radar

With athletes, coaches and officials spending hours under the sun whilst training, competing or supporting athletes, you’d think they would be used to protecting their skin wouldn’t you? As it turns out, sun protection - in all formats - is often not seen as a necessity, in fact it can be unpopular or just forgotten about.

Sportspeople receive substantially higher UV exposure, and routinely exceed the recommended exposure limits, increasing their risk of sun damage and skin cancer. Only 50% currently sun protect when exercising outdoors.

Most of us could improve our sun protection habits, and now there’s no excuse, as awareness around this important health and safety routine is about to get ‘super-charged’, thanks to Sunguarding Sport, a new campaign by the Melanoma Fund, and supported by England Athletics.

Sunguarding Sport resource

Sunguarding Sport is a free resource that provides a systematic approach to educate and raise awareness of sun protection to all in sport and outdoor recreation.  It provides guidelines, sport specific and a toolkit of downloadable materials for Clubs, athletes, officials, coaches and spectators. Topics include which sunscreen to use, type of clothing, tips on application and shade, how to avoid or deal with heatstroke, sunburn, heat exhaustion, dehydration and much more.

England Athletics National Endurance Lead Spencer Duval is a Sunguard ambassador for the campaign, and is keen to help spread awareness around the issue.

He says: “I am delighted to bring my knowledge and experience to create awareness, to help inspire athletes and all in sport to take a fresh look at their own habits.  Sun protection is as important as hydration and recovery and should be taken seriously. If you look after your health, which athletes should always do, then don’t forget your skin health!

Top tips

You will find lots of tips on the Sunguarding Sport website, however these are some personal tips that have served Spencer well!

  1. Find a non-greasy sunscreen that you enjoy wearing and wear it! (Sunscreen doesn’t work in kit bags).
  2. Look to wear appropriately vented but UV protection running kit where possible. Make sure you can perform in this kit.
  3. Sun protect before you train or compete, and then focus on your performance!
  4. Compare the condition of the skin on your glutes to your arms. This is a wake up call for revealing sun damage.
  5. Train outside of peak UV hours (11am - 3pm) if at all possible, and seek shade for breaks.
  6. Remember to hydrate regularly with water, as this will prevent overheating in summer

Find out more