Tennis Inside Now?

As the seasons are changing, northern senior tennis players are now facing the choice of going inside or not playing.  This issue is highlighted in a reader question on this subject…

Safe Inside?

“George, I would really benefit from a discussion about pros and cons of playing indoors at this point. For those of us in the “north”, indoors is the only option for playing. Specifically,

1. If now is not the time to go indoors, what has to change?

2. Are social distancing, masks and regular cleaning enough?

3. Does it vary from state to state?

4. Does it vary depending on age of the player?

5. Does weather make a difference in terms of killing germs?

“In your last discussion of Covid, you had great input from the medical community including an immunologist or two who were also players which helped a lot. …Obviously, this discussion wouldn’t be pertinent to your warm weather players, but this is a big deal for those of us who have only one option between November and April.

“You provide a valuable service for us seniors. Thanks. Hope you deem this a relevant blog topic.”  John Curtin

John, I empathize with your situation… it would seem like the early Covid shutdown all over again!  Let’s see who has an opinion and/or information to help answer your questions.

Anyone have input on playing tennis indoors … both from the Covid and transition from outdoors?

Medical Updates…

Evert Jonsson – If you have been following here, this world-class senior athlete took the precautionary step of having a CT Calcium scan as a step before a stress test (learning a lesson from Fred Drilling’s “surprise” quadruple bypass surgery).  With an acceptable range of 0-400, Evert came in at a jaw-dropping 3,155!  They put him on a statin.  Well Evert now writes…

“Had singles practice on Wednesday and dubs plus exercises on Thursday. Had my heart cath Friday. LAD 95+ blocked. Ambulance transport to Bay County hospital, Panama City. Bypass surgery Monday. Hard to grasp that i have so few symptoms.” 

“According to several doctors. Recognizing the problem before the heart attack and damaging the heart improves you chances to full recovery dramatically. Hope to give you full update Wednesday or Thursday.” 

Fred Drilling – He is going for a medical trifecta … had quadruple bypass surgery several months ago … followed by knee replacement … and Tuesday of this week is going in for “minor spinal surgery”. Do well Fred; and get back on the courts quickly.

George Wachtel – Following the example of those two guys (who are both in much, much better physical condition than I am), I went for my own CT Calcium scan test a week and a half ago.  To my extreme frustration, I cannot get anyone in my doctor’s office to tell me my results!  Stay tuned for all.

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14 thoughts on “Tennis Inside Now?

  1. George, you played GREAT last Monday at Spike’s….you have got to be 100% healthy!!!

    Scoot, thanks … i just don’t want to have one of those “heart surprises”! george

  2. George-
    I can’t believe that your doctor’s office hasn’t called you with the results…..the results are available right away.
    Keep on ’em.

    John, i have called THEM three times! george

  3. George,
    We have a great group of players here in Miramar Beach Florida, and Evert is in the middle of all the serious drills, workouts and playing. He never showed a symptom of having blocked arteries. We affectionately call him Eman! He has inspired us to excel on and off the court, with our fitness. In light of the recent findings by Evert and by his other peers, like Fred Drilling, I am now planning on the CT Calcium Heart Scan for myself. For all 70 plus Senior Tennis enthusiasts, we are fortunate that we can network through the NSMTA and I would encourage all to take the test…..before disaster strikes.

    Pete, i think i am in good shape; but Evert has me outclassed by a mile! So a good lesson to be learned. thanks, george

  4. I am an Tennis and Fitness Club Owner and player in New Hampshire. We have had indoor play on our three courts since June 2020. We have many safety protocols in place: masks required to be worn into facility, one way entry/exit from courts, all touch points (score cards,benches,etc) removed, temperature checks upon club entry, hand sanitizer on each court and more! Our facility also recently added Air/Heat Exchange units to our indoor courts for ventilation during the cold weather which is now starting to show it’s face up here.

    I would point out that most indoor clubs have already been closed for a quarter of this year and have taken that time to add as many safety protocols as possible to give their players a comfort level. We as facilities need our players to return! Remember that as long as you maintain your minimum 6′ physical distance on court (don’t switch sides, don’t meet at the net to chat, don’t put your tennis bags down on the side of the courts next to each other) are in actuality only 4 people in over a 5000+ sq ft space!

    Check with your facility safety protocol/procedures prior to playing. Most of our members were nervous coming in their first time but now know our protocols and feel as though we have done everything possible to create as safe a facility as possible. Give your club a try and see how you feel.

    Laura, great work! pls say Hello to Whitey for me. thanks, george

  5. As a public service announcement, there is an app that can be downloaded for iPhones (and I believe also for Android devices) which is called “COVID Alert.” I have the iPhone version that is out for residents of Pennsylvania, but I believe that the are also pushing out versions for other states — with the view that eventually one will be available for all states. Right now, I believe that there are similar apps available for Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Washington DC, Wyoming, and some parts of California. More apps for more states appear to be on the way.

    The description below is from Pennsylvania’s web site and described the features of the app that may make it desirable for others to download and install it:

    “Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine are encouraging Pennsylvanians to download COVID Alert PA, a COVID-19 exposure notification app designed to help fight the spread of the virus.”

    “COVID Alert PA uses Exposure Notification System technology developed by Apple and Google to detect if a user has been in close contact with another user who later tested positive for COVID-19. Users who may have been exposed to the virus will receive a notification to their phone called a ‘COVID-19 Exposure Alert,’ along with public health guidance on what to do next.”

    “’This app is a simple tool you can use to help fight COVID-19 every day, everywhere you go,’ said Wolf. ‘I encourage you to visit your app store and download it for free today.’”

    I just downloaded and installed the app last night. So I don’t know how well it works yet, or what will happen if or when I get any alerts. But others might want to check it out.

    Marty, Interesting stuff. thanks, george

  6. George, I have a calcium score north of 3000, discovered about 4 years ago. I went “nuts” (no pun intended) on a vegetarian diet for a couple of years and avoided the statins. Now however, I take my statin like a good boy, eat a wider variety of food, including fish and chicken. I think maybe it’s more complicated than just a high score…. at least I hope it is!
    As far as indoors, I’ve been playing indoors most of this year since that’s where the majority of our clay courts are here in Denver. I make sure the people I play with not only observe safe procedures while we play, keeping our distances, but also that they are respectful of Covid when they are going about their lives. So far so good!
    Hope to make it to Florida this winter! Can’t believe it’s only been 9 months since last being there!

    Mike, do you know what your Calcium score is now, with all that you have been doing to lower it? thanks, george

  7. Best wishes to everyone for a speedy recovery. As for indoor tennis, I don’t think it’s a one size fits all sort of thing. I would recommend that folks err on the side of caution, particularly those of us 65 and over. Make sure your indoor facility is enforcing masks, social distancing, and has good ventilation. I would avoid locker rooms and indoor eating areas. You can see what the COVID story is in your county on the Johns Hopkins website. Low numbers of new cases and a low positive-test rate are good news. High numbers of new cases and a high positive-test rate are not. Here’s the website:
    You can see the latest data from your county by clicking on it on the state map.

    Joe, stay well and play well. thanks, george

  8. George,
    For what it’s worth: In December 2013 my Calcium score was 750 but I had a favorable Stress test (Stress Echocardiogram) and began statin treatment to stabilize any potential dangerous cholesterol plaque (despite have good total cholesterol values of ~165 and HDL – good cholesterol, above 65). Asymptomatic until January 2020 when I had very mild, short duration chest discomfort/squeezing, that was recurrent over a few days. I went to the ER and had heart cath showing 99% blockage of the LAD – reduced to 0% by stent – and most fortunately no indication of any heart damage. Soon back to strenuous tennis but cholesterol RX quadrupled with blood thinners, plus following recommended diet more closely as well as 2 1/2 hours of continuous aerobic exercise per week. (The most lucky and most happy fella.) Good luck!!

    Dag, i am glad that got it before it got you! Even more reason why i want to learn my score. thanks, george

  9. George-
    It’s very hard to lower your calcium score to any real degree that would be helpful…basically you’re trying to keep it in the ballpark and make sure that it doesn’t get worse.
    My score is 1344, and they don’t even recommend retesting. Luckily a statin finally worked for me (Zetia… side effects after all the ones I tried), so I now eat what I want frankly, including the bad stuff, because my LDL is 53, and I figure that life’s short. After all, if we’ve gotten this far, we must be doing something right
    P.S. I’ve had this high calcium score for many years.

    John, encouraging. thanks, george

  10. First let me start by saying my thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has been having any health issues of late. Let’s hope that Evert, Fred and everyone else has a full and happy recovery. And in your case, George, I hope your tests all come back normal.

    Regarding indoor tennis, I have homes near Philadelphia and in Southern Vermont, so if I don’t play tennis indoors when it is cold or bad weather outside, I don’t play at all. One of the clubs that I regularly play at, not far from Philadelphia, ONLY has indoor courts. So, even over this past summer, I have been playing indoors there quite regularly – generally at least once a week since June, when the governors of Pennsylvania and New Jersey (FINALLY!!) relaxed their COVID-19 restrictions on playing tennis at all (which, quite frankly, I always believed and still believe to have been extreme overkill and not based on good science or logic, especially since both governors had, months earlier, relaxed their previous restrictions on playing golf and it did not appear, to me and my tennis playing brethren, that there was a truly logical distinction between the risks of exposure in those two sports).

    Having said that, there IS some potential risk of COVID-19 contact when you are playing tennis indoors, I think. But as a lay person following logic and normal CDC guidelines (I am certainly no epidemiologist) I would think it is manageable.

    For example, at the indoor facility mentioned above, everyone is required to wear a mask when entering or leaving the facility, and when in ANY locations other than on the tennis court. Also, there is required strict adherence to a minimum of 6 feet of distance between persons. Although I would like to say that I have never seen anyone breach these rules, I cannot say that. There have been the occasional absent minded people who have showed up with their tennis bags but wearing no mask. But the staff at the club are very good at politely reminding people what to do, including using a throw away mask that the club has an ample supply of, and I have never seen anyone refuse to wear a mask when so reminded. This is not to say some self righteous a$$hole looking for a fight or to try to prove a (political) point might not still give an argument, but I can honestly say I have never seen that.

    Other indoor clubs that I have also recently played out near both my Philadelphia and Vermont homes, of which there are several more, also follow pretty much the same rules as above, and if anything the two in particular that I have played at most recently are slightly more anal and take even more steps to protect people from exposure. For example, both have someone (who also wears a mask and gloves) wielding one of those “no touch” thermometers that reads temperatures from a distance on your forehead and they won’t even let you in the door if there is any abnormality. Both also have restrictions on how many people can be in the bathrooms (or lockers) at the same time (2 people maximum). Both require all persons entering AND leaving the facility to use a hand sanitizer, in their presence. And one of them has actually removed from the facility a fresh water dispenser that used to be there from which players would routinely fill up their water thermoses before going out to play (I guess under the theory that someone might get saliva on the lip of their thermos and touch that lip to the water dispenser inadvertently when refilling, thereby exposing the next person to a possible vector for the virus). The water issue is a little annoying because no one told me about it before I showed up at that facility for the first time in months, a few weeks ago. But fortunately I had a few unopened bottes of Gatorade in my tennis bag so I made due.

    Remember that indoor facilities are generally large and in some cases truly cavernous facilities. That is a LOT of air moving around in a very big area.

    Overall, if I were an epidemiologist, I would guess that the risk of exposure from someone who is infected is probably no greater (and probably much less) when playing indoor tennis than it is walking through a grocery store or a department store with masks on, or even sitting outside with friends and family with masks off being served food by a waiter at a restaurant while spaced 6+ feet from adjacent tables. Yes, there IS still some risk, and everyone needs to make his or her own mind up about that, but I don’t think it would stop me from playing indoor tennis this season UNLESS some well considered scientific study were to be conducted proving me wrong about the above.

    My only real concern is that I think the Pennsylvania and New Jersey governors, in their zeal to do the right thing this past spring, went overboard on banning tennis altogether, and I would hope that they not do the same thing this indoor season again. But I have no control over that.

    Marty, stay safe and stay healthy! thanks, george

  11. A friend of mine played a league match at an indoor facility several weeks ago. My friends partner had taken a covid test a few days prior, but had not received the results yet. Everyone wore masks to the court but removed them from play. They followed all the usual precautions, social distancing as much as possible, etc, but did NOT follow some of the more extreme measures such as playing with multiple sets of balls or wearing gloves. He did not mention whether or not they changed sides after odd games. ANYWAY, my friend got a call from his partner that his test results came back POSITIVE. My friend and their opponents all went in for tests, and all came back negative. So, most of us took heart that doing basic safety precautions seems to be enough to stay safe on a tennis court – even Doubles.

    Terry, great. Stay safe and stay healthy! george

  12. Hi George, at my small indoor facility in CT, only a few groups 60+ have delayed coming indoors. And those were mostly men. Although studies seem to suggest that women take covid more seriously than men, it doesn’t seem true for indoor tennis. Women of all ages couldn’t wait to get back to playing indoors. Personally, I’m shocked with the influx of new members, I never expected it. I know we can thank our local country club and other outdoor spaces for creating a host of new and returning players, since outdoor tennis was considered safe all summer.

    I was also very clear with our membership that we would raise rates. I didn’t argue about whether our government did things correctly or not, I just pointed out that our cost of doing business is forever changed, as we have to assume that outside factors can force us to temporarily close for months. Previously, that wasn’t a part of our business model. On the rate issue, nobody blinked. It’s still considered a bargain.

    Tim, glad things are going well in CT. Down here, it seems to me that the women are much less consistent in “keeping social distance” around the tennis courts. thanks, george

  13. Hi George,
    This is a really important topic. As you know, I run a small indoor facility in Western Massachusetts and we recently had a player who found out she was exposed and, ultimately, tested positive for COVID. The good news is that the exposure was not related to us and also that everyone who was in our facility with her has tested negative. Of course we reported the incident to our Board of Health and had already complied with all of their edicts before they responded.

    That said, it definitely served as a wake-up call for many of our patrons. I’ve been bombarded with questions ranging from:
    1. When exactly did this happen? (This we answer)
    2. Who was it? (We don’t give out personal information without permission)
    3. Has the facility been sanitized? (Yes)
    4. Is the air fresh or recycled? (Complicated answer that I’ll discuss if there is interest)
    5. What did the Board of Health Require (Happy to share if interested)
    6. A slew of random questions

    It turns out that we were very lucky. The person in question played in the last booking of the day. She contacted us immediately; as soon as she found out she’d been exposed — and again when her test came back positive.

    The moral of the story for me is this: If you are at all compromised, or if someone in your household is, you need to be very careful. Even the most responsible person may not know they’ve been exposed for days after the fact. Our player did everything right and still managed to expose others.

    From a business perspective, some players have decided to give up their indoor time. It’s completely understandable. In anticipation of this, we decided to NOT ask season contract holders to pay up front; we hold the court and they pay weekly. And, this year, we’re very understanding when these things happen and we’re not holding anyone financially responsible for a long-term seasonal court reservation.

    From a human perspective, there is a ton of uncertainty out there. I hope all of us are taking this COVID situation very seriously and that we’ll all be up front with our community if even the possibility of exposure happens. “Transparency” is an overused buzzword these days. But it’s also a matter of public safety.

    Be well… stay safe… all the best!!

    Mike, it must really get your attention when someone tests positive. Great reactions. thanks and best of luck. george

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