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Safety Guidelines for Racquetball

Keep racquetball players at your fitness center safe by following and enforcing safety rules and guidelines.

HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU SEEN racquetball players take a swing at the ball, only to have the racquet fly across the court? They didn't have the safety strap on their wrist. This is just one of the safety precautions you need to make your members aware of before they play racquetball in your fitness center.

Having players sign a waiver will help prevent lawsuits; however, fewer injuries will also lessen the chance of a lawsuit. Read on to find out how to keep your players safe and your facility out of court (the court of law, that is).

MAJOR CONCERNS

It is estimated that 2.4 million Americans sustain eye injuries each year. About one-third of these injuries result from sports. In fact, eye injuries are the most prevalent and serious problems resulting from racquetball mishaps -- even a beginner can hit a racquetball in excess of 60 miles per hour. Requiring protective eye guards (polycarbonate lenses certified by ASTM or CSA) can greatly lower this problem. Do not allow players to wear old rubber lens-less eye guards.

Elbow and shoulder injuries such as bursitis and rotator cuff problems generally occur because of poor body mechanics, lack of a warm-up, poor conditioning and overuse. Make players aware of how to avoid such injuries.

Collisions with opponents and the wall are another common problem. Collisions often occur at the beginner level, and when a beginner plays an experienced player. To avoid these kinds of injuries, beginners should practice alone in the court and take lessons.

EQUIPMENT

Protective equipment can help prevent racquetball injuries. Players should do the following: * Wear eye guards with polycarbonate protective lenses and an attached safety band.
* Use a quality racquet from a reputable dealer.
* Always check their racquet for tension, grip, missing parts and cracks.
* Use a racquet that has a secure grip plus a wrist tether that attaches to the player's hand.
* Wear proper activity attire and avoid loose jewelry.
* Wear non-skid, not black-soled athletic shoes. (Black-soled shoes aren't a safety issue; they just mark up the floor.)
* Wear a glove.
* Have a towel on hand for drying possible floor wet spots from perspiration.
FACILITY
A racquetball court's design plays a large part in keeping players safe. Floors should be constructed with shock absorption in mind -- preferably a sprung wood floor -- and its finish should limit the amount of slippage during normal use. Never apply an oil or wax finish to the floor. Doors should open into the hallway, and have flush pulls and non-protruding hinges. A floor mat outside the entrance will help keep the floor safer, as well. Shatter-proof safety glass must be used, and court lighting should have a minimum of 50 foot-candles. Walls should be clean and white. Hard maple, with close studding to avoid dead spots, is ideal for the front wall. An emergency phone and first aid kit must be available for players, as well.
STAFF INVOLVEMENT
It's a good practice to have courts monitored on a regular basis, and to have staff available to racquetball players for assistance. Staff members should have basic emergency care skills, and be empowered to enforce all rules. They should correct unsafe play, such as a player turning around to see the ball and being hit by their opponent, or not getting out of the way of their opponent after making a shot.
Facility staff should also do the following:
* Remove ball marks off walls on a regular basis.
* Make sure the court is clean, free of indentations and dry.
* Stack clothes, wallets, keys and water bottles in an area away from the playing area -- not in the so-called "out-of-the-way corner" of the court.
* Eliminate protrusions such as an open door. If the door is 4-feet high, place a warning on it to alert the player to bend down.
* Check ventilation. All ducts should be flush with the ceiling.
* Keep the temperature at about 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
* Keep water containers full or maintain water fountains. Water should always be available to players.
WARNINGS AND SIGNAGE
Easy-to-read safety rules should be posted at every court at eye level. The American College of Sports Medicine's guidelines suggest the following signage:
* "Eye guards are required."
* "Black-soled shoes are not allowed on the court."
* "No food or drink is allowed on the court."
* Another one you could post is, "Any questions? Ask a staff member."
IDEAS TO COMMUNICATE TO PARTICIPANTS
Racquetball instructors can teach beginners proper practices to maximize safety on the court. Paramount to safe play is the attitude of the participants. Good sportsmanship will do much to lower the chance of collisions or of being struck with a racquet or ball. Players communicating on the court is also an excellent safety procedure. They should let their opponent know they are coming around or behind them.
Racquetball is vigorous and fun, but injuries -- and lawsuits -- are not part of the game.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION American Amateur Racquetball Association: 1685 W. Uintah, Colorado Springs, CO 80904-2921; 719 635-5396. Borkowski, R. The School Safety Handbook. LRP Publications: Horsham, Pa., 1998. Dougherty, N. (ed.). Principles of Safety in Physical Education and Sport. American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance: Reston,Va., 1993. Tharrett, S.J., and J.A. Peterson (eds.). ACSM's Health/Fitness Facility Standards and Guidelines (2nd ed.). Human Kinetics: Champaign, Ill., 1997.

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