face masks outdoor sports

Do You Need to Wear a Face Mask While Playing Sports Outside?

Can you believe that just over a year ago, if someone would have mentioned face masks in the context of sports, most people’s minds would have gone towards helmet face masks. These days, when you hear the word face mask, our minds automatically go into pandemic mode. This past year has taught us a lot about ourselves, our communities, our government, and the inconveniences we need to go through in order to ensure that our friends and loved ones stay healthy and strong. At the start of the pandemic, the most important thing we could do was stay home, limit activities outside of the house, limit our contact with people outside of our households, and wear masks, wash hands, and social distance if you had to be out in public. With the thought that if we maintain these rules for a short amount of time, we’d be able to curb the spread of this virus and not overrun the hospitals with sick people. But it’s been over a year now and while things are beginning to look better with the advancements in the vaccines, it’s still important to wear those face masks and protect those that may not be able to receive the vaccine, or that have not received it quite yet. The stay at home orders, and the rules put in place by the governments of the states, have placed a burden on those people that thrive in social situations, especially students. Some states have begun opening up schools again as there are concerns about the mental health of young people being forced to stay inside and not be able to participate in activities with their friends, but what does this mean for organized sports? Each state has different rules when it comes to which sports are being allowed and what precautions everyone has to take in order to minimize the risk during these activities. In most cases, indoor sports still require masks while participating, but what about outdoor sports?

Playing Organized Outdoor Sports During the COVID Pandemic

Outdoor sports may seem like they could be played without masks and be safer than their indoor counterparts, but that’s not always the case. Over the last year we’ve been told that walking outside, playing outside, and being outside, in general, is safer than being indoors (in some situations), but that only pertains to when you’re doing these activities alone, or with people from your household. If you’re going to be in close contact with people outside of your home, you should still be wearing that mask. Even when it comes to sports. Outdoor sports are generally safer than playing indoor sports, since the air outside can diffuse and dissipate the aerosol droplets coming out of people’s nose and mouth, but if the sport you’re playing requires you to be in close proximity to other people, it’s still important to wear the mask. Sports like football and basketball require people to be physical and around other people at almost all times. Sports like soccer, lacrosse, and hockey, are also physical sports, but in most cases you’re not running into a person constantly. But that’s not to say you can leave the mask at home if you’re playing those sports, it just means it’s a less of a risk than basketball or football. Sports like baseball and golf don’t require you to be in close proximity to another person all the time, so those are even less risky than the other sports mentioned here, but to be safe, you should still be wearing a mask. The batter is still going to be right next to the catcher and the umpire. And then once you reach a base, there’s a good chance you’re going to be near another player. The only place that it might be ok to not wear a mask in a baseball game, is if you’re playing in the outfield, but we would still recommend wearing one, just to be safe. In addition to being in close proximity to other people while participating in these activities, you’re going to be running more, jumping more, and sweating more. Depending on how hard you push yourself, you could end up breathing heavier, heavy breathing can sometimes bring on a cough, and thus you could be expelling more saliva droplets than if you were just sitting on a bench, or going for a nice walk outside.

Are There Any Sports That Can Be Played Without the Face Mask?

Even though you’re outside, masks should still be worn during most activities if you are going to be in close proximity to other people. In some cases though, masks create a hazard which may outweigh the risks otherwise. For example, sports or activities that take place in the water are not suitable for mask wearing. If the mask gets wet, it will cause difficulty breathing and can become extremely dangerous while in the water. In other activities like gymnastics, wrestling, or cheerleading, the mask can get caught on equipment or wrapped incorrectly around your face which can cause injury. So in these cases, the mask should be removed during the activity, and placed back on once rejoining your team or walking to the bench/locker room. We know that everyone wants to get back out there and participate in organized sports, especially children and school kids, but we are still in the middle of a pandemic. And while the numbers are going down, and the vaccine is being rolled out, it’s still important to protect those around us, as well as ourselves. Wearing a mask is a way to show that you care about other people, that you wish to remain respectful, and do what you can in order to make sure that you are not the cause of someone getting extremely sick. The more we all do our part to curb the spread of the virus, the sooner we can all get back to our normal lives, mask-free, and enjoy our outdoor sports activities without worry.
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