All sports rely on a quality playing surface, but tennis is unique in that there are a variety of surfaces it can be played on for different paces of the game and the preferences of the players. One surface that has gained a lot of popularity over the years is Har-Tru, a brand name synonymous with clay tennis courts, though it’s constructed using crushed stone. This unique gravel-like surface allows players to slide into their shots like on clay. It also reduces the impact on joints and slows the ball speed for a different pace of the game. But as this Har-Tru material wears down from use, weather conditions, and inconsistent maintenance, it can become hazardous.
Our client was a regular tennis player and had been on this style of court many times. But one day, while playing with friends, it was especially slippery. She fell, fracturing her collarbone. It wasn’t until over a year had passed that she brought it to our attention when she tried fruitlessly to have the owner of the facility cover her medical expenses. She was embarrassed by the accident, but as a regular tennis player, she just had a feeling that something wasn’t quite right about the court surface that day.
A Slippery Slope
Now, it should be noted that sports of any kind come with a risk of injury. And playing tennis on this type of surface can lead to falls through no fault of the maintenance on the court. Given this reality, we had to dig deep through the technical evidence to prove liability with the owner.
When players go to the courts – or fields, or whatever surface – they assume the surface is in suitable shape for playing. This fact can be especially tricky to gauge on surfaces that are inherently slippery – like an ice rink, or in the case of Har-Tru tennis court surface.
Proper maintenance is crucial for the longevity and safety of any tennis court, and Har-Tru surfaces are no exception. Neglecting regular upkeep can lead to several dangers. Over time, the fine stone that coats the court can wear down. Facility managers must commit to routine maintenance to ensure a safe playing environment.
The surface needs to be watered periodically to keep the material as a safe playable area. When the gravel gets too dry, it doesn’t provide the necessary traction for running on the court or even controlled sliding. Think of it like sand on concrete. Dry sand is easy to slip on. When the sand is wet, though, the material clumps more together and isn’t as slippery.
The gravel of the surface also simply wears down over time. Routine maintenance requires that material be added and replaced as needed. Eventually, the court needs to be resurfaced and releveled as well.
Two Key Signs To Watch Out For
- Discolored areas on the court: Since the court needs to be watered regularly for safe play, you can see when the surface is starting to get too dry by lightly colored areas on the court.
- Curling or raised tape lines: If the court is not well-maintained, the lines on the court will start to curl or even raise above the court surface. This can be a trip hazard in itself but also a sign that the surface, in general, may not be suitable for play.
So, be on the lookout next time you take the court. Warm up to get in the flow of playing, but also to test the surface out. Even if these visual signs aren’t obvious, trust your body. If your footing feels off while warming up, it may be best to find another court than push it further once the game gets competitive.