Are Pay Incentives Ruining Tennis (And Player’s Feet?)

Reports suggest that Diatchenko played hurt against Williams so she could get her paycheckA disappointing match at the U.S Open sparked an interesting debate in the New York Times that I thought we could all explore together.

On the opening night of the well attended tennis tourney, the incomparable Serena Williams took on an injured Vitalia Diatchenko. Apparently, the competition was pathetic, and Diatchenko barely moved on the court before finally retiring in the second set due to the foot injury that kept her from playing at an acceptably challenging level.

Sports injuries are nothing new in tennis, so what’s causing all the ruckus? Diatchenko admitted that she’s hurt her foot during pre-match sprints; she reportedly delayed her withdrawal so she could take home the over $39K given to players as the minimum cash award for appearing in the Open. In other words, fans (who paid full price for tickets) were subjected to a stinky match so that Diatchenko could earn her pay check.

While her actions are understandable, she’s causing people to seek a restructuring of pay-outs, helping stars get the money they earned for qualifying even if an injury keeps them from seeing action on the court. Changes to the system would, people argue, protect both players’ health and fans’ interests.

As a Houston podiatrist, I’m all for a change that would take away incentive for tennis players to compete on injured feet. While a hefty pay check may be too tempting to pass up, aggravating an existing injury could cost these athletes much more in the long run—longer recovery times, additional or worsened injuries, even an end to their careers! Playing hurt is hardly ever worth the pay off, in my opinion. If you are dealing with an athletic injury, schedule an appointment with Dr. Andrew Schneider so you can safely return to the playing field.