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Masks & Sports: Should Youth Athletes Wear Face Coverings During COVID-19?

Kids and Masks: Why Cloth Face Coverings are Needed in Youth Sports During COVID-19 Kids and Masks: Why Cloth Face Coverings are Needed in Youth Sports During COVID-19

Part of being on a team is defending and protecting your teammates. During the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the best to do this is to wear a mask to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. This is especially important for indoor sports and for players who are not yet vaccinated.

Here's a rundown of the latest recommendations:

In counties with high rates of COVID transmission, all athletes, coaches and spectators age 2 or older should wear face masks for all indoor sports training, competition and on the sidelines.

Unless fully vaccinated, athletes also should wear a mask when participating in outdoor group sports.

All athletes should also wear a face mask over the nose and mouth while:
  • Going to and from the field, court, gym, locker room, pool, and other facilities.

  • On the sideline bench or in dugouts.

  • Gathered for team chats.

  • Riding together on bus trips or in carpools to and from events.

Proper face mask use during indoor sports decreases risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission to rates as low as with outdoor sports.

Masks should be removed when participating in:

  • Water sports, since wet face masks are more difficult to breathe through. Athletes participating in swimming, diving and other water sports should not wear a face mask while they are in the water. For the same reason, masks that become soaked with sweat should be changed right away.

  • Certain sports and activities in which masks could pose a safety risk. Face masks should not be worn during gymnastics or cheerleading tumbling, stunts and flying, for example. They could get caught on objects, becoming a choking hazard or blocking vision. Likewise, face masks are discouraged while wrestling unless an adult coach or official is closely monitoring for safety.

Make face masks a habit

Here are some ways you can help your kids get used to wearing masks during sports:

  • Find a face mask that your child can put on and take off themselves. Make sure it covers their nose and mouth, fits snugly against the face with no gaps, and is comfortable for them to wear.

  • Have your child practice wearing it while doing drills or playing their sport before the season starts.

  • If the face mask is removed for a break, the athlete should remain at least 3 feet away from others.

  • Have a special place to store the mask. For example, your child might keep it in the same spot in their sports bag when they are not wearing it.

Keep it clean

Just like you should sanitize sports equipment before and after each use, wash reusable face masks daily in hot water.

Set a good example

Adults should also protect themselves and others by consistently and correctly wearing face masks when needed. By doing this, they set a good example for young athletes.


Safely wearing face masks helps young athletes protect their teammates, themselves, and the sports season. Talk with your child's pediatrician if you have any questions about risks of being exposed to or spreading COVID-19.

More Information

This information was adapted from material developed jointly by the American Academy of Pediatrics and:


Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2020)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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