STMS Member Spotlight:
Past President & Sports Medicine expert, Dr. Neeru Jayanthi, MD
Please provide a general overview of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the tennis world.
This pandemic has changed everyone’s life in and out of the tennis world. There are profound implications probably most felt at the professional ATP/WTA tours and ITF international competition, particularly where safety may be more compromised due to mass spectators. However, college tennis, junior tennis, and even millions of recreational tennis players have been affected by decreasing or stoppage of play. However, each country and municipality has
handled it differently based on a variety of factors. However, I think despite this short-term absence from the sport, tennis may in fact be positioned as the best sport to return from the pandemic. It already has demonstrated reductions in mortality and improved survival rates compared to ALL other sports. We MUST remind people that as tennis returns, there is no better time to be aware of the health benefits of tennis then now.
From your experience in sport and tennis medicine, please comment on the impact the virus has had on health care practitioners and the athletic populations they serve.
We must be humble as sports and tennis medicine providers that we may not be considered “essential” during this time, but that does not mean that we are not “important”. I have personally stayed connected with a number of my tennis players through telehealth and been positioned to be ready to take care of the anticipated demand for optimum and specialized tennis and sports medicine care.
How can we, as a collective within this discipline, prepare for ‘returning to play’? Please walk us through some best practice steps of doing this.
Return to play should be in a phased approach and also should include some element of risk stratification. We produced a working document (that does not reflect the opinions of Emory Healthcare, ATP, WTA, USTA, STMS or any other organization that I have an affiliation with, but rather a summary based on best estimates)
What lessons have you learned from this crisis?
We should never take for granted the luxury of being able to take care of athletes, as even missing it for a few weeks or months reminds us that it is a privilege to be able to take care of athletes of all types, but specifically tennis players. I personally am fortunate to work at Emory, run a tennis medicine program, and have players who still value the opportunity to play and compete, and find it worthwhile to seek consultation. I have also been able to return to the courts myself in safe, low-risk environments and even start performing selective on-court evaluations.
Moving forward, what are the main take home messages you can share with our readers?
• Return to recreational tennis play and teaching may be done responsibly with minimizing risks primarily with playing/teaching low risk, asymptomatic
players, minimal handling of the balls, and minimal handling of surfaces.
• Return to tennis in a competition is more likely going to be initially with singles, and with minimal spectators, following physical distancing (and mask)
• Return to tennis in competition with mass spectators and international travel will need cooperation and unified agreement of a number of entities (players,
countries, host tournament sites) and likely appropriate testing (point of care), immunization or herd immunity, and improved treatment options (including