The OVA recently announced that masks were mandatory for players at all time, even while being active on the court during a scrimmage or a game. This breaks from the previous guidelines that allowed athletes to remove their mask during game play. The decision was not taken lightly and in this post, we would like to provide some background behind it.
Since the very beginning of the pandemic, the OVA has been trying to determine the safest conditions under which we could come back to the volleyball court and we have communicated that through the various versions of our Return to Play protocol (RTP). All along, our decisions have been based on the best available information on how Covid-19 spreads between people. Some new information came to light recently that made us review our position on wearing masks while playing.
People across the world have been trying to figure out how to return to their regular activities in a safe way. Wearing a face mask has been shown to be a good way to reduce the risk of transmission but people have been uncomfortable with the potential risk that wearing a mask could pose to athletes while practicing their sport. Wearing a mask while playing sport had never been an issue so there was a big void in the research. This has lead multiple research groups to conduct studies on the effect of wearing a mask while practicing physical activity.
Recently, the results of some of those studies were released and there doesn’t seem to be a health risk associated with wearing a mask while playing sports in healthy individuals. Here are a couple of those studies and their results.
A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports found that “in healthy subjects, aerobic exercise with either a surgical mask or N95 respirator is safe and feasible. Although it may be associated with some discomfort, masking has only minor effects on physiological parameters during exercise.”
Another recent study from the University of Saskatchewan found that “wearing a face mask during vigorous exercise had no discernable detrimental effect on blood or muscle oxygenation, and exercise performance in young, healthy participants.”
We all want to return to volleyball and we want to see our young players practice the sport they love but we need to mitigate risk as much as possible. Although volleyball isn’t a contact sport, there are many situations in our game where athletes get in close contact and ironically, most of these situations happen between points. Players are waiting at the net for the point to start and standing within a few feet from each other. When there is a point scored, teammates come together in the middle of the court and although they do not share high fives anymore, they are still facing each other screaming and celebrating their point. These situations present a risk of transmission so it is our responsibility to mandate wearing a face mask during game play if we know that wearing a face mask can significantly reduce that risk , especially now that we have evidence that there is no detrimental physiological effect associated with wearing a mask during aerobic exercise.
We have the collective responsibility of doing what it takes to bring back volleyball for as many young players as possible in Ontario. Right now, given the new information available, our OVA Board of Director in consultation with OVA staff has decided that being responsible means wearing a mask at all time while playing volleyball. Let’s apply this measure and get back to the courts safely for the benefit of our entire volleyball community.