How Risky Are Indoor Sports This Winter?


“With exercise, you’re exhaling a lot of moisture, and a single-layer mask of any type will soon get damp and saturate,” Dr. Cameron said. “At that point, it’s not trapping the virus anymore.”

Beware single-layer bandannas or lightweight neck gaiters, and avoid anything with a vent or a valve, which protects only the wearer.

Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a professor of medicine and infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, advises against the N95 mask for exercise and said, “It’s suffocating, it’s tough to wear for long periods of time, and it smells weird.”

Whatever you use, have a couple extra available for when they get wet from breathing or sweat. Travis Woodruff, a coach for the Potomac Soccer Association in Potomac, Md., said that at first, his soccer players complained about masking during practice, but they’ve learned to adapt.

“Masks are part of our uniforms now, just like shin guards. They put it on and they’re ready to play.”

Coaches and trainers are getting creative about adapting practice to maximize safety. At the Sender One Climbing facility in Santa Ana, Calif., where Dr. Huang’s 16-year-old daughter is a competitive climber, all athletes are now required to use liquid climbing chalk mixed with at least 70 percent ethanol, in an effort to keep hands — and handholds — virus-free. Masks are mandated, temperatures are checked at the door and arrows on the floor keep foot traffic moving in one direction.

Since the Potomac Soccer Association canceled all indoor play because of coronavirus concerns, Woodruff and Andion are committed to training their players outdoors all winter, weather permitting, and they’re both strict about enforcing safety measures. Woodruff uses cones to set up a personal distancing grid during water breaks, and he films every soccer practice to cut back on the number of parents attending. Andion sets up socially distanced camping chairs for the kids, which he wipes down with Lysol between use.