Let’s face it, playing any sport with a cold is not fun. Your game will likely suffer to an extent and your ability to play all out will be compromised. Sometimes, however, there’s not much of a choice. If you get sick just before a competitive tournament, you probably will be in a position where you have to play regardless.
Though it’s not a pleasant experience, there is nothing inherently wrong with playing tennis with a cold. However, make sure it’s not something more serious. You should come prepared with plenty of liquids and a few towels. Also, bring a hand sanitizer and be mindful of your opponents, avoid shaking hands and try to keep a distance to avoid getting others sick.
It will require a good amount of mental fortitude to make it through. Playing with a stuffy head, pain, and general discomfort is not fun. Tennis is a game that requires a great deal of focus and physical exertion. While you can’t control the physical symptoms, you can control the mental aspect, it just requires more discipline than usual.
Is it Really a Cold or Is It More Serious?
The first thing you need to be sure about is that your symptoms are just a cold and not something more serious. If the symptoms are primarily above the neck, then it’s probably OK to play, if you feel discomfort or congestion in the chest then you should avoid playing.
Above the neck includes such symptoms as sniffling, sneezing, or a sore throat. Generally, these symptoms are OK to play with. Below the neck symptoms include chest congestion, coughing, aches, and stomach pains. If you have these, avoid exercise.
It’s important to listen to your body in these situations. Don’t push yourself too hard. If you start to feel light-headed, out of balance, have trouble breathing or get short of breath, or feel chest tightness or pressure, you should stop playing right away and seek medical attention.
Also, if you have a fever (100.4 degrees F or higher), it’s best to stay home and rest to allow your body time to recover. Exercise can stress your body even more than it already is due to your illness. If you push yourself too hard, you negatively affect your body’s ability to heal.
Another thing to be cautious about is the combination of decongestants with exercise. As you exercise your heart rate naturally increases. But, cold medications can also have a similar effect. The combination of the two can make your heart pump very hard.
If you do choose to play tennis with a cold, be sure to get plenty of rest afterward so that your body can heal. If you’ve had a fever, wait until your temperature is normal for at least 24 hours before resuming exercise. Here are some additional things you need to think about if you decide to go ahead and play.
How Important Is It For Me to Play?
Before you decide to play, ask yourself how important it is for you to play. Does not playing mean missing training or practice? If so, how critical is that? Would your instructor or coach be understanding about it? Most trainers would likely prefer that you heal and recover under these circumstances.
Are my reasons for wanting to show up more stubbornness than actual need? Will not playing affect my ranking, spot on the team? Would not playing mean missing a competitive tournament? Will I be letting my teammates down by not showing up?
These are all important questions to ask yourself, only you know the answers. However, regardless of the importance of the event, remember that your health is the most important factor. If you have something more serious than a cold, don’t put yourself at risk.
Come Well Prepared
If you do decide to rough it out, make sure you come prepared. You will need plenty of liquids to stay hydrated. This is probably the most critical thing when playing with a cold. Your body needs extra fluids. Electrolyte replacement drinks can also be beneficial.
You should also bring along a few towels to wipe yourself with if needed. Avoid blowing your nose too much, it’s counterproductive and can spread germs. Do not share your towels with others.
Be sure to wash your hands before and after playing. Bring a hand sanitizer to have with you during practice or play. Use it to prevent spreading your germs onto your equipment or, more importantly, to others.
Be Courteous to Others
Be conscientious of the fact that you can spread your cold to others and try to avoid contact if at all possible. It is probably a good idea to warn others that you have a cold so that they are more cautious about handshakes and close contact.
If you are in a competitive situation and you don’t want to tip off your opponent, just keep a distance during warm-ups and play. After the match, before the handshake, you can let them know so they exercise caution. A fist bump may be OK in this situation.
You should also avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. Use a towel instead to avoid contact with your hands. This will prevent germ spread both for you and for your teammates or opponents.
You should keep in mind also that the first three days of a cold is when it is most likely to spread. If at all possible, rest the first three days. Then afterward, avoid sneezing or cover your nose and mouth when doing so and avoid contact with others.
Maintain Good Focus While Playing
Anyone who plays the game knows that the mental aspect of tennis is tough. It’s tough under normal circumstances, but when you have a cold it becomes even more difficult to concentrate and focus. You need to overcome this, however, if you plan to perform well.
If you give in to the fact that you are not feeling well, you will most likely have already lost the match. While you need to be smart about listening to your body if you decide to play under these conditions, be sure to stay focused.
Remember, when you decide to forgo resting your body you are making an important tradeoff. If you decide to play, then make the best of it. You may need to dial back the intensity a bit, but there is no point in showing up and feeling sorry for yourself while you’re out there.
While playing tennis with a cold is not the most pleasant experience, in most cases it is safe to play as long as what you have is a cold and not something more serious. Remember the above neck / below neck general rule.
If you have a fever (100.4 degrees F or higher), definitely stay home and recover. Your body will be under enough stress from the illness, you don’t want to compound the situation by stressing your body even more. Remember, the more you allow your body to rest, the sooner you will be back at full strength.
If possible, dial back the intensity level a bit. You don’t need to go all out when sick. This may not be possible in competitive matches, but during practice, it can help keep your body under less stress, which can in turn help with your eventual recovery.
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