Jul 13, 2020
Breaks, Hydration At Higher Importance With Masks Worn

As more athletic organizations begin its resumption of activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the questions of masks worn by athletes have arose with the summer temperatures.

While many workouts take place outdoors and consist of conditioning drills in warm and humid temperatures, being aware of the restrictions of breathing with masks is important.

A recent article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette highlighted those concerns. 

“The issue with masking and the heat is an important health issue,” Dr. Graham Snyder, medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at UPMC, told the Post-Gazette. “It’s a balance between how can we prevent transmission and at the same time watch the safety of our athletes. I think part of that answer is a sports medicine answer.

Photo: University of Wolverhampton / Creative Commons

“How do we do things to ensure enough water breaks and enough pauses to activities for people to remain cool and, at the same time, do it safely in a way that prevents transmission? The requirement to wear masks is not necessarily incompatible with keeping people well while they’re participating in athletics.”

While athletes are not required to wear coverings while conducting conditioning or participating in sports, they are required to wear them when on the sidelines or in any situation where maintaining six feet of distance cannot be maintained, under Pennslyvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s return-to-sports guidelines.

The effectiveness of masks in preventing the spread of COVID-19, however, has been well-documented by the CDC and numerous clinical and laboratory studies.

But as temperatures begin to rise above 90 degrees in the Pittsburgh area, the heat can create potentially uncomfortable conditions for athletes wearing masks — and may contribute to heat-related illnesses in some cases.

» RELATED: California HS Conditioning Program Held in Limbo

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that people engaged in high-intensity activities “may not be able to wear a cloth face covering if it causes difficulty breathing.” The World Health Organization (WHO) advises that people not wear masks when exercising “as masks may reduce the ability to breathe comfortably.”

“It becomes a little bit more difficult because now you can’t disperse the heat through your lungs as much if you have a mask on because your breathing is tempered by what kind of mask you’re wearing,” Dr. Edward Snell, a physician of orthopedic sports medicine at Allegheny Health Network, told the Post-Gazette. “Masks make it harder to maintain homeostasis of body temperature.”

To read the full story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on student-athletes wearing masks during athletic activities, click here

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