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Will a Facial Hair Restriction Follow the NBA’s Latest Mask Policy?

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The NBA announced that teams must utilize KN95 and KF94 masks moving forward, but studies show that those masks are only effective when facial hair is not present.

Los Angeles Clippers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The NBA’s push to utilize KN95 and KF94 masks appears to be an attempt to improve the league’s COVID-19 protocols. On the surface, the new standardization of masks should do just that. But if the use of N95 masks is to be truly effective, players sporting facial hair could be in for a change.

In April of 2020, ABC News featured a story by Dr. Delaram J. Taghipour that touched on the best practices that should be utilized with N95-style masks. In the story, Taghipour explained that facial hair can impede the effectiveness of the mask.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the test won’t be conducted if there is any hair growth (stubble, beard, mustache or sideburns) between the skin and the face piece sealing surface. That means anyone who plans to wear an N95 mask would need to shave their beards to ensure a good fit.

The story from ABC News also featured a pointed observation regarding facial hair and N95 masks from Dr. Cioe Peña.

Eric Cioe Peña, MD, MPH, FACEP, director of global health at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, New York, explained that “hair under the edge of the mask breaks the seal and makes it useless.” As with many others on the front lines of battling COVID-19, Dr. Cioe Peña shaved his beard to get fitted for an N95.

While the NBA’s new mask policy certainly appears to be a step in the right direction for player safety, it will likely be toothless unless a follow-up policy on facial hair is enforced.

You can read the full report from Dr. Taghipour at ABC News.