Baylor Scott and White Health

Baylor Scott & White Sports Therapy & Research Publishes New Data on Impacts of Mask Wearing on Sports Performance

Participants fatigued faster when wearing a cloth mask while on treadmill; investigators suggest modifying masked athletes’ performance goals

Newswise — Baylor Scott & White Sports Therapy & Research at The Star in Frisco has published new findings from a study designed to determine the effects of wearing a cloth mask on sports performance. The data from this randomized controlled trial, conducted through Baylor Scott & White Research Institute, has been published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine and shows that participants who wore cloth masks during exercise experienced a reduction in performance as intensity levels increased.  

This investigator-initiated study marks the first time that washable cloth masks have been used to determine metabolic performance during exercise.

“All across the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, although many people are wearing masks during exercise, we have limited knowledge of the impact of mask wearing on sports performance,” said Simon Driver, PhD, principal investigator and research center director at Baylor Scott & White Sports Therapy & Research. “We wanted to contribute to the scientific evidence base, and our data suggests that while exercising with the mask, participants were working harder, breathing harder, and their bodies were getting less oxygen – leading to fatigue quicker.”

Participants completed a graded-treadmill test which increased in speed and incline every three minutes while wearing a performance assessment device that measured metabolic parameters such as oxygen uptake, carbon dioxide production, and energy expenditure. This device recorded participants’ respiratory and cardiac parameters during and after the test. The sample consisted of 32 young and healthy participants (55% male; mean age of 23 years) who completed two cardiopulmonary exercise tests on the treadmill approximately eight days apart, one of which was conducted wearing a two-layer polyester/elastane cloth mask and one conducted without a mask. The study’s key findings determined:

  • Cloth face masks reduced time to exhaustion by 15% and VO2max (oxygen consumption) by 29%.
  • Compared to no mask, participants reported feeling increasingly short of breath and claustrophobic at higher exercise intensities while wearing a cloth face mask.
  • Coaches, trainers, and athletes should consider modifying the frequency, intensity, time, and type of exercise when wearing a cloth face mask.
  • Athlete goals should be modified to reflect the reduced performance and account for the psychological impact of wearing a cloth face mask while exercising.

“We know that mental focus and mindset can help athletes push themselves when training or while participating in a competitive sport,” said Erin Reynolds, PsyD, program director of the Baylor Scott & White Sports Concussion Program. “In this study, participants noted they were not necessarily tired physically, but mentally they were not able to overcome the physical barriers they experienced due to wearing the mask.”

The research team believes that future investigation is warranted to understand the impact of wearing a face mask on patients and healthcare workers as well the impact on face masks on athletes’ cognitive performance at different intensities of exercise.

This study was made possible through funding by the Baylor Scott & White – Dallas Foundation and through a collaboration with Sports Academy at The Star

Baylor Scott & White Sports Therapy & Research is a game-changing sports performance and healthcare destination focused on safety and research. Located in a 300,000-square-foot, nine-story facility at the home to the Dallas Cowboys World Headquarters – The Star in Frisco – specialized centers within Baylor Scott & White Sports Therapy & Research harness innovations in injury prevention, performance, recovery, education and research. To learn more about programs at Baylor Scott & White Sports & Research, visit:

bswhealth.com/star

About Baylor Scott & White Research Institute Extending investigational expertise across more than 50 specialties areas, Baylor Scott & White Research Institute provides the business and regulatory infrastructure to accelerate medical breakthroughs and innovative new treatment models through clinical and translational activities. Baylor Scott & White Research Institute is present at sites and centers across Baylor Scott & White Health and maintains nearly 2,000 active trials each year.

About Baylor Scott & White Health As the largest not-for-profit health system in the state of Texas, Baylor Scott & White Health promotes the health and well-being of every individual, family and community it serves. An integrated care delivery network, the system includes the Scott and White Health Plan, Baylor Scott & White Research Institute and Baylor Scott & White Quality Alliance. Through 51 hospitals and more than 1,100 access points including flagship academic medical centers in Dallas and Temple, the system offers the full continuum of care, from primary to award-winning specialty care, throughout Texas, and via virtual touchpoints. If its service area were a state, it would be the eighth largest, providing care to a population larger than that of the state of Georgia. Founded as a Christian ministry of healing, Baylor Scott & White is proud to honor its century-long legacy through its commitment to improving accessibility, affordability and the customer experience for all. For more information, visit

BSWHealth.com

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