Experts recommend masks for student athletes playing indoor sports

U.S. & World

Ohio High School Athletic Association doesn't address mask-wearing in guidance on winter sports

CLEVELAND (WJW)– New guidance released Friday by the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends that student athletes, particularly for indoor sports, wear a face covering.

The interim guidance was made at a time when school sports move indoors and cases of COVID-19 rise dramatically nationwide.

“We know that the CDC has a recommendation that individuals who are less than 6 feet apart for more than 15 minutes indoors together should be masked and the American Academy of Pediatrics felt that athletes shouldn’t be exempt from that recommendation, said Dr. Susannah Briskin, pediatric sports medicine specialist with UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland.

Briskin said data shows the risk of contracting COVID during indoor activity is higher than playing sports outdoors.

The AAP guidance states, “Therefore the AAP encourages that athletes wear them at all times for group training, competition, and on the sidelines.” It goes on to state, “Athletes should always wear a cloth face covering when between practice drills, while not on the playing field, on the sidelines, arriving at or departing from the playing facility, in a locker room, and during shared transportation to/from an event.”

Briskin said although it is difficult to track COVID transmission on the court or playing field, there is evidence that indoor sports like ice hockey in particular, have been responsible for COVID outbreaks.

“There was a particular case down in Florida where there was significant transmission of COVID between teams, as well as within teams… And within the Northeast this year, there have been several states who’ve had issues with ice hockey-related outbreaks,” she said.

The guidance makes exceptions for some circumstances.

“Individuals who are involved in swimming and diving should not wear a cloth face mask in the water, as obviously it would be difficult to breathe if it became wet, individuals who are doing gymnastics or competitive cheer, involving tumbling, we recommend no face mask because it could obstruct their vision or get caught on a an apparatus… In the situation where people are participating in wrestling, it could serve as a choking hazard,” Briskin said.

On Friday, the Ohio High School Athletic Association released its guidance on winter sports.  It does not specifically address the new mask-wearing recommendation. But it does reinforce recommended policies similar to fall sports, such as limiting team travel, and the number of school districts teams come in contact with. The OHSAA recommends school districts limit spectators to parents and immediate family members only.

The OHSAA told FOX 8 it follows recommendations from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health. A health department spokeswoman said it is still looking at the updated guidance and has no position on it at this time.

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