The plausible effects of wearing face masks on sports performance – A scoping review

A. Das, S. Azarudheen, B. Chandrasekaran, S. Fernandes, F. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objectives: The objectives of this scoping review are to discuss, firstly, the positive aspects of wearing face masks during training (such as a barrier to COVID-19 transmission, air pollutant exposure, and adding load on respiratory resistance flow); secondly, the negative aspects (adverse effects on body temperature and hypoxia risks); and thirdly, the training responses of wearing face masks on aerobic and anaerobic performance. News: Besides social distancing and hand hygiene, wearing a face mask is proposed to be the prime advocacy for virus containment. During the period of high risk of contamination, the return to sport guidelines proposed by international and national sport federations included wearing face masks during training sessions. However, it is necessary to discuss the pros and cons of wearing face masks during exercise. Prospects: Although it was essential to wear a face mask during exercise or sport-specific training, there is conflicting evidence on the implications of the use of face masks on physical, physiological as well as psychological well-being or performance. Based on the conflicting empirical findings and anecdotal evidence, certain recommendations have been made for adequate use of face masks during exercise; both to break the chain of transmission and prevent the physiological compromise expected from wearing face masks during exercise. The present review can help stakeholders balance sport guidelines in the event of a respiratory virus pandemic with athlete safety. Conclusion: Conflicting evidence of mechanistic links between the dose of exercise and the possible adverse effects associated with exercising with face masks is available. Adequately powered studies with strong methodological quality on appropriate selection of masks and usage based on the intensity, duration, and type of sport, age, and gender is needed now for the stakeholders to make informed decisions with respect to exercising with face masks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)474-487
Number of pages14
JournalScience and Sports
Issue number5-6
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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