THE SUN: Our Friend and Our Enemy

Important Info and Tips to Reduce Sun Exposure…

The sun… it’s the center of our Solar System. It’s also the most important source of energy for life here on our earth. To us groundskeepers, the sun is our best friend, but at times it is also our worst enemy.

Beacon AthleticsWe need the sun to help grow our turf and dry our fields. There is nothing more beautiful than a baseball game played when the sun is showering us with warm rays; our grass is emerald green and our ballparks are alive with players and spectators. But always lurking are those skin damaging UV rays that wreak havoc on our skin.

Sun exposure is a highly personal issue for me. I didn’t use sun protection for most of my professional career. Sunscreen wasn’t pushed as hard back in the 1980s and 90s so I never developed good sunscreen habits.

Additionally, I never wore hats (on a balding head) or sunglasses. Now I’m paying for it as I was already treated for my first skin cancer in 2017, and I’m sure it is only the beginning. I’m at a higher risk now and I have changed my bad habits when I’m in the sun, but the damage is likely done. And, remember: it’s cumulative. So the older you are, the higher the probability of contracting some form of skin cancer. I wanted to share my lessons to other groundskeepers to help you and your crew stay protected.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and the groundskeeping profession is especially vulnerable. Besides the overwhelming amount of time spent working out in the sun, there are plenty of other factors that can also help increase the risk of contracting this form of cancer.

Who is at greatest risk?

  • Non-Latino Caucasians have the highest risk, yet all nationalities/races are susceptible
  • Those with fair skin, freckles, numerous moles, blonde or red hair and blue, green or grey eyes
  • Those with a history of numerous sunburns, especially if blistering occurred on any of them
  • If you have a family member who has had skin cancer, specifically Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
  • People who use tanning beds, which have been labeled “carcinogenic” by the World Health Organization
  • Those with an autoimmune disease
  • Those who smoke or chew tobacco
  • If you have already had skin cancer, your risk increases
  • If you live at higher elevations or in tropical climates
Beacon Athletics Sun Exposure Table

Fortunately, skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. Below are ways you can reduce your exposure to damaging UV rays.

Tips for Reducing Sun Exposure

Beacon Athletics Sun Exposure Table
  • Wear as much protective clothing as possible — long sleeve shirts and long pants provide a ton of protection.
  • During the hours between 9am and 4 pm, wear a wide brimmed hat instead of a baseball cap to protect your head, neck and ears from the most intense midday rays.
  • Whenever possible, get your crews onto the field early before the sun gets too intense and then put them under cover during midday hours to avoid the rays.
  • Your eyes are just as much at risk for damage as your skin. Be sure to wear sunglasses, or better yet, safety glasses that are also sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun.
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 to 50. These will block 97 to 98 % of the harmful UV rays. Use a minimum of 1 oz of sunscreen each time you apply and do so 15 minutes before heading out into the sun. Be sure to reapply FAITHFULLY every 90 minutes that you are out in the sun. Make a habit of using it every day, even when it’s cloudy out.

You may have noticed in the Beacon Athletics master catalog that we carry products for protecting you and your crew from the dangerous effects of the sun. These products include a variety of sunscreen lotions, sprays and lip balm. We also have several models of sun protection safety glasses to protect you and your crew’s eyes.

Whether you use Beacon’s crew safety products or have a different go-to for sun exposure items, please stay covered and stay protected.

View Crew Safety Products

Paul Zwaska (contributor)

A former head groundskeeper for the Baltimore Orioles, Paul has been a frequent contributor to Beacon’s Ballfield Blog and other resources and products. Among other contributions to Beacon, he authored Groundskeeper University, the pioneering online ballfield maintenance training venue.