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Coach and Athletic Director

Simple Steps To Stop Cancer

By: Michael Austin, Editor-In-Chief, maustin@lesspub.com

Nothing knocks you down a couple pegs like sitting in a hospital gown while a couple of dermatologists look at some miscolored spots on your arms.

After a minute of discussion, the expected verdict was provided to me—“Well, it looks like you have two basal cell cancers here.”

Take those two and add it to two I had removed almost a decade ago and now I am staring down a real problem. Trying to figure out how better to take care of myself, I ask the doctors my best course of action moving ahead. They tell me, unfortunately, a lot of this damage occurred when I was younger and just now is coming to the surface.

I think back to the roots of my problems: pale skin (check); fair complexion (check); ran cross country and track outside in the afternoon sun (check); and was the typical teenager who believed he was invincible (check and check).

Sure, basal cells can be removed (there definitely are better ways to spend a morning) but knowing now that simply applying sunblock every time I did something active outside could have prevented this is frustrating.

Health Worries.

George Wilkinson, 57, recently retired after 34 years as the football and track coach at Egg Harbor Township High School (N.J.) due to lingering effects of battling a variety of health issues, including a 1993 diagnosis of a level four melanoma in his leg.

“My generation of athletes was so stupid. We’d go out and get burned intentionally just to eventually get a tan,” Wilkinson admits. “But with everything that has come to light in recent years, there is no excuse for people to keep suffering through this.”

Wilkinson says he dedicated the latter stages of his coaching career  toward ensuring his athletes were protecting themselves from the sun at practice and competitions.

Skin Protection.

“For coaches, it’s easy. When players are stretching before practice just ask them what they did to protect their skin today. Don’t allow them to run with their shirts off at practice, be sure their heads are covered and have them liberally apply protection,” says Wilkinson.

Dr. Alex M. McDonald is a medical doctor, professional triathlete and coach (fastforwardtriathlon.com), which means he spends a lot of time outside. He says athletes are in more danger from the sun because perspiration on the skin lowers the minimal erythema dose, which is the lowest ultraviolet light exposure needed to turn skin pink.

McDonald recommends athletes apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors.  “When using sunscreen, be sure to apply it to all exposed areas and pay particular attention to the face, ears, hands and arms. Coat the skin liberally and rub it in thoroughly—most people apply only 25 to 50 percent of the recommended amount.”

And coaches, beyond simply suggesting athletes use sunscreen, be a leader and role model. As your team gathers prior to practice, apply your sunscreen. Make it a part of the daily routine so it becomes habit.

“The problem is some young people let talk go in one ear and out the other. They think they’re invincible,” warns Wilkinson. “It needs to be a constant reminder from the coach.”



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COMMENTS: 1
Cancer article
Posted from: Dr. Benjamin Leibowitz, 5/5/12 at 10:39 AM CDT
Mike:
Thanks for sharing this information. Coaches let's pass the word and emphasize the dangers and future hazards of overexposure...

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