NFL, Oakley Developing Virus-Protecting Face Masks

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The National Football League is testing protective face masks that can be worn during games.

Thom Mayer, the NFL Players Association’s medical director, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Monday that “there will probably be a recommendation” that the NFL protect players from COVID-19 by using modified face masks that contain surgical or N95 material.

“Back in early March, I had suggested that we should consider novel and emerging ways to handle the helmets and the face masks and the spread of the virus,” Mayer said on The Adam Schefter Podcast, noting that equipment maker Oakley is developing a number of prototypes, including N95 material covering a player’s entire face mask. “The bioengineers that we use and that the league uses — Oakley, as you may or may not know, does all the face visors for the league under contract — these guys got the bit between their teeth.

“They’re doing really good work. Some of them, when you first look at them, you think, ‘Gosh, no’ ‘cause you’re not used to seeing it. You’re just not used to seeing it. But they’re looking at every issue you can imagine, including when it fogs up.”

Mayer also suggested ways in which at-risk players could take further safety steps, such as immediately wearing a mask after removing their helmets, social distancing while not on the field and employing single-use hydration methods.

“Anybody who’s got a risk, I would advise them to be zealous, religious and, frankly, almost maniacally committed to minimizing the chance of spreading the virus,” Mayer said.

The NFL has said that teams can re-open facilities on a limited basis starting Tuesday. The league has proceeded as though the season will start on time, beginning with an Aug. 6 preseason game between Pittsburgh and Dallas, and the Sept. 10 regular-season opener between Houston and Kansas City.

Related content: Pro Leagues Reveal Plans to Reopen Team Facilities

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