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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Professional Tennis Player vs Urologist: Which is Better?


I've been spending time at the US Open this year enjoying the matches and people watching. Only this year, I have begun to look at the players through the prism of a business man and could not help but wondering who has it better; them or me. Here are some things I noticed.


  • Income potential: While it seems limitless in professional tennis, this is a myth. Only the top 100 players in the world make any significant income, and the truly big money, millions per year, goes only to the top 50 in the world. The seemingly limitless corporate money goes only to the top 10, and even to them, only to those whose names transcend the sport, such as Andy Roddick or Roger Federer or in Spain, Rafael Nadal. In contrast, there are ~8000 practicing urologist in the USA, and most do very well, in the >$200,000 income range. Like in professional tennis, the "top" urologists do far better and can earn >$1 million per year in addition to corporate money via "consultant fees" and speaking fees. Over the course of ones career, the average urologist will earn many times what the average professional tennis player will.

  • Threats: Both urologists and professional tennis players have significant threats to the viability of their careers. For urologists, the ever present threats are devastating lawsuits, rising costs, declining reimbursements, and outside regulatory changes. These are all very significant threats that affect all practicing urologists, yet most of us soldier on and do well despite these challenges. Professional tennis players face threats as well, and I think theirs are even worse than ours. In addition to challenges from their competitors, professional tennis face the high probability of having a career ending injury.

  • Overhead: Urologists have high overhead. Ours comes from rent, payroll, insurance, professional dues and CME, equipment, etc. A solo urologist's overhead can easily exceed $150K per year, and a group of 3 can exceed $1 million per year. Now lets look at a tennis player. While it may seem that they travel light, I believe it only seems that way. A tennis player's overhead is high and includes the costs of training facilities, coaches and trainers, equipment, travel, hotels, health insurance (if they are Americans), and others. Coaches take 10% of earnings, or more, before expenses, and this can be more than a practice manager earns in a big group. Yes, professional tennis players have high overhead.

  • Lifestyle: It may appear to be an exciting lifestyle--and I believe it is for the top players, or while a person is still in their young 20's--the extreme travel schedule gets old fast. Family building must be put off until after ones career, for women, and for men the travel is difficult on relationships as well. Either you bring your family with you and live out of suitcases, or you leave them at home and suffer without them. No doubt, urologists have a better lifestyle than the majority of professional tennis players.

So I think my parents were right after all. . .stay in school, play as amateur, and enjoy the Open, no doubt my favorite time of the summer.


Hope you enjoyed the post,


The IU.