As summer approaches, sun protection is essential for ultimate frisbee players to prevent skin damage and reduce the risk of skin cancer.
We partnered with the brilliant Dr. Christina Lee Chung, a board-certified dermatologist, Chief Medical Officer of the AUDL, President of the Philadelphia Phoenix, and Scientific Advisor & Inventor, Boinca Therapeutics.
Blind Spots for Ultimate Players
One of the biggest obstacles for Ultimate Frisbee players is the amount of time spent outside in high UV concentration over multiple days. Health and safety are not always on the radar of young players, who don’t worry about skin cancer until much later in life.
“What you do now matters so much, you cannot erase the ramifications of the prior years of sun exposure, ” says Dr. Chung.
While sunscreen is an essential tool in protecting against the sun's rays, it’s not perfect. Dr. Chung shares “The FDA changed their consumer marketing regulations and labels cannot say waterproof because there is no sunscreen that is waterproof.” Companies now have to qualify their sunscreen as water-resistant and indicate how long the water-resistance lasts, which can be up to either 40 or 80 minutes, but not longer. As a general rule, sunscreen lasts a maximum of 2 hours, so if you are sweating and playing Ultimate Frisbee, Dr. Chung recommends re-applying every 45 minutes - 1 hour.
There is no sunscreen that protects 100% from UV rays. Christina says “The US FDA allows you to say you are a broad-spectrum sunscreen if you have coverage through 90% of the UV spectrum. Which means sunscreens labeled “broad-spectrum” may be allowing up to 10% of the UV rays to still get to your skin”. You should also note that sunscreen does in fact expire after roughly 3 years.
“Generally speaking, though, if you're totally healthy the chance you're going to die or have metastatic skin cancer is pretty low” Christina Chung explains. “But as I tell all my patients - as much as you like me, the last thing you want to do when you’re older is to have to come see me every 2-3 months because you’re covered in things that are growing and bleeding!"
Another point by Dr. Chung is that “Skin cancer rates in men are much higher,”. Men tend to practice sun protection behaviors less frequently and with generally shorter hair, the scalp becomes a huge area that is missed. When your hair is thinning and your scalp is exposed it is a common spot for skin cancer and early pre cancer to develop.
High Risk Locations for Fair-Skin Individuals
Higher-Risk Locations for more Serious Outcomes
- Backs of hands
- Tops of ears
Checklist of Sun Protection Essentials
To ensure that you are adequately protected from the sun while playing Ultimate Frisbee, Dr. Christina Chung shares her essential items to have in your bag for the next tournament:
- Sun hoodie (long sleeve coverage)
- Hat (Bucket hat)
- Lotion sunscreen
- Spray sunscreen
- Roll on stick sunscreen
There are two categories of sunscreens:
- Contains titanium and zinc
- Creates a physical barrier between you and the sun
- Absorbs certain lengths of UV light
- Forms a layer that adheres to the skin
- Must apply at least 15 minutes before sun exposure
Sun Protection in POC
People of color (POC) need to protect themselves just like fair-skinned individuals. POC have more pigment and can develop skin cancer, but the onset is often delayed by 10-20 years. Importantly, there are a wide range of skin types and colors among POC and Dr. Chung emphasizes that the more lightly-pigmented you are, the higher risk you are at for developing skin cancer, irrespective of race or ethnicity.
“Just because you have more pigment does not mean you can't get skin cancer”. Christina explains that “As a dermatologist, I always counsel my patients of color that we can definitely get skin cancer. It just doesn’t occur as early and frequently as it does in the White populations. But it does happen and, because awareness is so low, skin cancers are diagnosed at more advanced stages in POC. Also relevant to sun protection is dyspigmentation, which is the number one dermatologic complaint brought to dermatologists by persons of color.”
Although sun protective behaviors are seen as less important, practicing vigilant sun protection is the gold standard in preventing and treating irregular pigmentation and, yes, for preventing skin cancer in higher-risk POC.
Optimal Sun Protection is Multifactorial - 5 Things to remember
1. Avoid peak UV hours
2. Stay in the shade
3. Cover up
4. Wear sunscreen
Sun Protection Bundle
When it comes to sun protection in Ultimate Frisbee, BE Ultimate provides essential lightweight, UV protected gear for all athletes. Dr. Christina Lee Chung shares, “I was very impressed with the sun hoodie”. It provides full coverage on your upper half and the hood protects the sides of your face and scalp from high sun exposure. Our Elite Bucket Sun Hat also provides full face and neck coverage as well as a great fit allowing you to play and stay hidden from UV rays.
“There's no better way to protect your skin than to cover up,” Dr. Chung reiterates.
For comprehensive protection from the sun, a hat and full coverage is a must. Although sunscreen is also essential, it can be sweat off during a game of Ultimate, so covering up is still the single best way to protect against the sun.