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Ohio Guidelines For High School Wrestlers: No Masks Required But Don’t Shake Hands
David Lees/Getty Images

New coronavirus guidelines for high school wrestlers in Ohio have some seemingly contradictory ideas, such as permitting the wrestlers to compete unmasked but forbidding them from shaking hands afterward and requiring them to wear masks off the mat when not actively competing or warming up.

According to the Ohio High School Athletic Association, the guidelines state under “General Requirements”:

No congregating before or after practices or contests is permitted. Coaches must wear face coverings at all times, including arriving and departing the facility and during active play. Eliminate handshakes pre- and post-match. Eliminate handshakes with coaches’ post-match.

Under “Requirements for Wrestlers,” the guidelines state:

Wear facial coverings off the mat when not actively competing or warming-up. Do not share equipment, towels, facial coverings, water bottles, other drinks or food. If equipment must be shared, proper sanitation must be performed between users. All wrestlers must sanitize their hands before and after warm-ups, at all timeouts, at period breaks and anytime they leave the playing competition or practice mat. All those on the team bench shall observe social distancing of 6 feet.

Under “Requirements for Officials,” the guidelines state:

Do not shake hands or fist bump other officials, wrestlers or coaches. At the end of match procedure do not declare the winner of the match by raising the winning wrestler’s hand. To conclude the end of match procedure, the official may point to the winning wrestler while raising his/her own arm (with open hand) having the requisite wristband color (red/green) of the winning wrestler.

In January 2020, a New Jersey high school canceled its wrestling match with another high school because of the flu raging through the student body. Hanover Park coach Tyler Branham said at least 70 students had been absent from school, many with the flu, prompting the cancellation of the school’s match with Phillipsburg. He stated, “I don’t think (the match) really benefitted anyone at this point in the season.”

In an article titled “Contagious Infections in Competitive Sports,” written in 1995 by E. Randy Eichner, M.D., Professor of Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Eichner highlighted infections that had spread in past decades via wrestling:

A recent review of the medical literature (going back to 1966) finds 38 reports of infections from competitive sports: 24 outbreaks or instances of person-to-person transmission; nine common-source transmissions; and five airborne transmissions. It also finds 28 newspaper reports of infectious outbreaks or exposures or issues concerning vaccination. The infectious agents were mainly viruses but also fungi and gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria (Goodman et al., 1994).

Of the 24 medical reports of person-to-person spread, most were herpes simplex infections in wrestlers (“herpes gladiatorum”) or rugby players, or other skin infections (fungal or bacterial) in wrestlers, football players, or rugby players. …An outbreak of herpes gladiatorum in 60 (35%) of 175 young wrestlers at a Minneapolis training camp suggests means for future prevention. Besides a vesicular rash, some wrestlers also had fever, chills, sore throat, headache, and/or enlarged lymph nodes. Some wrestlers were allowed to compete despite a rash. Transmission was mainly by skin-to-skin spread, aided by skin abrasions from mat burns.

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