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Ultraviolet Protection for the Athlete

Ultraviolet (uv) radiation from the sun has damaging and potentially deadly effects on the largest organ in humans, the skin. Ultraviolet radiation is to the skin, what a flame is to a marshmallow. Almost one million cases of skin cancer are now identified in the U.S. each year. Retinal degeneration and cataract formation, both of which lead to blindness, are also very prevalent in today's society. Both are also largely associated with uv-exposure. Considering the amount of sun exposure athletes tend to accumulate, and all while sporting minimal clothing, extra precautions to protect the "uv-vulnerable" tissues like the skin, lips and eyes are essential.

So how does the athlete combat uv-radiation? Well let's just say protection is everything. This means wearing proper eye protection every time exercise takes place outdoors. It also means regular use of sunscreens for skin and lip protection. With so many sunscreens on the shelves, it gets a little tricky deciding which ones for you. For starters, pick a sunscreen with a sun-protectant-factor (SPF) of no less than 15. Many sunscreens now contain antioxidants found to enhance uv-protection. The most effective antioxidant photoprotectors to look for include vitamin C, vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), and polyphenol extracts from green tea. Oral supplementation of these and other popular antioxidants have also been shown effective in protecting one from uv-damage.

Here's What To Do:

  • consider using sunscreen containing the antioxidants vitamin C & E, and polyphenol extracts from green tea
  • take a multi-vitamin/antioxidant supplement including vitamins A, C, E and beta-carotene
  • avoid outdoor activities from 11am to 3pm
  • wear uv-a and uv-b eye protection
  • if you must wear contacts be sure they have uv-absorbers
  • wear sun protective clothing including hats
  • use a skin and lip sunscreen with a SPF 15
  • periodically check your entire body for abnormal changes of moles and skin texture

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