The physical nature of tennis means that there are times when players need some type of treatment. Medical timeouts have been in existence for quite a while, but they do not come without some level of controversy as well.
What exactly are medical timeouts in tennis? What specific rules go with these timeouts? By knowing more about medical treatments in general during a tennis match, fans of the sport will be able to follow a little more closely.
What is a medical time out in tennis? A medical timeout occurs when any type of extra time is needed to treat an injury during a match. During this time, a trainer can come out and look at the player, assess an injury, make adjustments when necessary, and more.
What Is The Length of a Medical Timeout?
Generally speaking, a standard medical timeout lasts three minutes, after evaluation time. This timing can be flexible depending on what happened, and if a person needs anything out of the ordinary.
For example, three minutes will be pretty well enforced if it’s just a standard sprained ankle or some other relatively minor injury. If a pretty significant injury needs to be controlled before going back on the court, the umpire might give a little more time.
Players are entitled to two medical timeouts per match, as long as they are treatable. If the injury is too severe that a player is unable to go on, they are forced to withdraw. The maximum time allowed for both evaluation and treatment is 15 minutes.
How Is Bleeding Treated?
A bleeding timeout is related to a medical timeout, but it has slightly different rules. The timeout can last up to 15 minutes, or whenever visible bleeding has stopped. The tournament officials might also need additional time to clean up the court and sanitize that area.
What Are The Rules on Cramping, Fatigue & Heat-Related Issues?
Players have one timeout available for any heat-related issue. If the temperature is deemed too hot before the start of the match, additional breaks in the action might become available. While heat is part of tennis, they do not want to hurt players by making them play through the most extreme temperatures.
The tricky part is differentiating heat-related and medical injuries from general fatigue. Timeouts are not allowed for general fatigue. There have been times when players will try to fake an injury to get a breather, but the umpire is tasked with making the final discretion based on how the match is going.
The Strategy Behind Medical Timeouts
Medical timeouts are there to help out people in need, but unfortunately, the rule has been abused to the point that there are some instances where people are using it for strategic reasons. Some think it is too much about strategy at this point, acting more like a timeout in the action rather than actual medical assistance.
As one example, a break in the action can kill any momentum that the opponent has when they are playing the match. There are too many players who have a lot on the line, and they use it as a tactic. All of a sudden, with a break that long, it is pretty much restarting.
Medical timeouts can also sometimes mess with an opponent’s mental game. If the time out is taken right before a big service game, they might struggle to get locked in and ready to go in time. It is generally considered poor sportsmanship to take a medical timeout before the opponent’s serve for this reason.
Why Are Some People Against Medical Timeouts?
As time goes on with medical timeouts, some are very much against all that they stand for. For some, tennis players should be able to survive on their own without any medical assistance during a match. If they do need medical attention, then they are simply unfit to play.
There are definitely certain players who are much more hesitant to take in medical timeout than others. It’s become a strategic part of the game that not everyone is a fan of, and as more and more people benefit from it, it seems like
Who Performs The Medical Timeout?
Each tournament has a doctor in charge of medical timeouts. In the bigger tournaments, there will be more than one doctor, but it really just depends on the number of hours and who is on duty.
There was some talk about allowing players to bring their own people down for medical timeouts, but the higher-ups felt that this could be a chance for some illegal coaching.
A player might call a timeout for a medical reason, but then go over some strategy along the way. Coaching is prohibited entirely on the men’s tour, and extremely limited on the women’s side.
Working with a neutral medical team also ensures that the chances of a completely faked injury is eliminated. If it is clear the player is not injured at all, they could face repercussions for a fake medical timeout.
Are Medical Time Outs Here To Stay?
There’s been some controversy around medical timeouts in tennis throughout the years, and there’s no doubt that they have been abused in the past.
With all that being said, tennis is way too physical to not allow for medical time outs to occur. They must be allowed in some capacity to keep everyone as healthy as possible.