Australian Open Tennis. Heat safety rules inconvenient? Just change them.

Playing and working in heat is “hot topic” in the media for at least a few days every year at the Australian Open Tennis.  It affects players but also other people working and volunteering at the tennis; umpires, line umpires and children “working” as ball retrievers and ferrying sweaty towels to and fro the players.

Sports Medicine Australia publish heat guidelines summarized below.  So do Tennis Australia.  Both use the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature index.

The Sports Medicine Australia guidelines say at 30C WBGT to consider postponement as the risk is extreme.  But Tennis Australia raise this to 34C WBGT.  Moving the goalposts is obviously more convenient for the conduct of the tournament but is it safe/reasonable to operate outside the guidelines?

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>26C Wet Bulb Globe Temperature

Sports Medicine Australia: Risk of thermal injury is high/very high.  Limit intensity.  Limit duration to less than 60 minutes per session.

Tennis Australia: No guideline.  Presumably don’t worry.


>30 C Wet Bulb Globe Temperature

Sports Medicine Australia: Risk of thermal injury is extreme.  Consider postponement to a cooler part of the day or cancellation.

Tennis Australia: Changes to scoring formats (complicated – see the guidelines) OR A ten minute break between second and third sets in best of three.


>34 C Wet Bulb Globe Temperature

Tennis Australia: Suspend play.

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About John Culvenor

Hi, Thank you for taking a look at this blog. I work in engineering, ergonomics, creativity, design, training, etc. Often this is about helping solve legal puzzles through accident analysis. Sometimes it is about thinking up better designs for equipment, workplaces, and systems. This blog is about good design and bad design, accident analysis and how it can be done better, and how we can make a better, safer world by design!
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4 Responses to Australian Open Tennis. Heat safety rules inconvenient? Just change them.

  1. rodcurrey says:

    Yes convenience, coupled with television rights is a wonderful thing. The noted 34c is measured under the shade of a coolabah tree! However they won’t be playing tennis under the tree, but that shouldn’t matter………….crikey them sports medicine blokes know nothin bout tennis!
    Ripe conditions for a black swan event maybe. Nah she,ll be right, mate! Aussie Aussie Aussie!

  2. Hi Rod, I think Tennis Australia must be using what is called “practicability”. It’s not practicable to follow the accepted guidelines because it would affect TV, ticket sales, following tournaments, all sorts of things. Hence the change the guidelines so that they don’t interfere very much.

    • rodcurrey says:

      This is what it always comes to. And every time it does, productivity and corporate objectives override elevated or unacceptable risk. And further when it comes to be what they stipulate (34c policy) Tennis Australia will undoubtedly renege on their own policy. Its as if the TV rights and the risk of losing money paralyses them. i don’t know how this mechanism of ignorance can be deactivated. I mean is there a mechanism to abort? Or are they just programmed to drive off the cliff into oblivion?

  3. And yes, more trees on the tennis courts could help.

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