Should athletes be required to wear face masks while playing sports?

Should student athletes be required to wear face masks while playing sports? That is the issue that administrations have been juggling.

It’s hard for basketball players to wear a mask while running up and down the court. Some teams are requiring them for safety reasons – while many other schools are not for different safety reasons.

WPIAL basketball playoffs kick off next week but there’s a big dilemma over players wearing masks.

During the regular season schools got to decide whether to wear them and some games got cancelled because of it. For example, Penn Hills requires their players to wear masks and asked its opponents to do the same. If that team said no and the game wasn’t played, there was no penalty to a teams’ record.

But now the playoffs are coming and some schools, including Penn Hills are making changes.

“Students who choose not to wear a mask or play against a school not wearing masks then the student athletes will go fully remote during playoffs and then 14 days after that last playoff game,” Penn Hills Athletic Director Stephanie Strauss said.

Under WPIAL rules teams wearing masks will have to be more lenient in the playoffs. Basically if a mask wearing team chooses not to play a maskless team in the tournament then they have to forfeit.

“In the regular season we could control who we played and we could choose to only play those mask wearing schools but in the playoffs you cant choose who you play,” Strauss said.

Schools like Gateway haven’t required players to wear masks all year citing safety reasons.

“Its difficult to have your nose and mouth covered while you’re running up and down the court,” Gateway Athletic Director Donald Holl said. “There’s a lot of information out there that suggests it may be harmful to wear a mask during heavy exercise.”

While schools press to decide what’s best in the playoff there are rumors all over the state right now that the PIAA might put out a mask mandate right before the playoffs.

“We have no discussion scheduled for new mask policies,” PIAA Associate Executive Director Melissa Mertz said in a statement. “We have sent a letter to Department of Health asking for some considerations moving forward, but we have not heard back from them. Right now it’s status quo with the order being in effect and all expected to follow order and wear mask, unless they meet exemption.”