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Masks & Sports: Should Youth Athletes Wear Face Masks 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 strategies is proper face mask use to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. This is especially important for indoor sports and for players who are not vaccinated or boosted.

When and where it's recommended, mask wearing—along with vaccination and boosters, and physical distancing—remain the best tools to decrease the spread of COVID-19. It protects indoor and outdoor group sports participants, coaches and spectators.

Here's a rundown on the recommendations:

In counties with high rates of COVID transmission: Face masks are strongly recommended—even if vaccinated and boosted—for all athletes, coaches and spectators age 2 or older for all indoor sports training, competition and on the sidelines. When travel occurs across county lines, community levels should be checked.

In any area, regardless of the rate of COVID transmission: If an athlete or someone on the team or within the home is immunocompromised or considered high risk, they should wear a face mask indoors, in close proximity situations such as in locker rooms, weight rooms and on transportation.

Anyone who has symptoms of COVID should not attend games or practices. They should follow current CDC guidelines for isolation and quarantine. Masks should be worn when around others for 10 days after they test positive or develop symptoms for COVID. This includes wearing a mask for all physical activities.

Be a good sport

Is someone on your child's team or another team wearing a mask when nobody else is wearing one? Some children, teens and adults may choose to continue wearing face masks. Others must wear masks when they go out so they can protect themselves or their family members. Parents and coaches can remind athletes, spectators and one another that people who wear masks should not be targeted or bullied for their decision.

Masks for outdoor group sports

For outdoor group sports, most transmission is related to off-field activities. However, with the new SARS-CoV-2 variants that may infect people more easily, spread during outdoor on-field activities is a greater concern.

Hold on to your face mask

Coaches, parents and kids should wear face masks whenever they are recommended. Adults should protect themselves and others by consistently and correctly wearing face masks when needed. By doing this, they set a good example for young athletes. Make it a habit:

  • 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.

  • Make sure that your child can put on and take off the face mask themselves. Make sure they keep it over their nose and mouth. The mask should fit snugly against the face with no gaps and be comfortable to wear.

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

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 certain situations in competitive cheerleading and gymnastics where the masks 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.


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 sports and COVID-19.

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Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2022)
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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