National Football League engineers and sports equipment company Oakley Inc. are testing prototypes of face masks that might contain surgical or N95 mask material, the NFL Players Association's medical director said on a May 18 ESPN podcast.
Thom Mayer made those comments on The Adam Schefter Podcast. He said that "there will probably be a recommendation" that the NFL use such masks to protect players from COVID-19 when the league returns to play.
It's unclear if or how the 2020 NFL season will be played. But as a fan of a Cleveland Browns team that's had two winning seasons in the last 21 years, I have to say that masks can't possibly make the team play any worse. And if the Browns play with masks in 2020 and win, the team should make the masks a permanent thing.
N95 masks — including those made by market leader 3M of St. Paul, Minn. — make extensive use of plastics. Five of the six main components of 3M's N95 mask use some type of plastic. Its straps are made from thermoplastic elastomers, the nose foam is polyurethane and the filter is polypropylene fiber. The mask's shell and cover both are made of polyester.
Lake Forest, Calif.-based Oakley, a unit of global eyewear leader Luxotica of Milan, makes all face visors used by the league. Mayer said that in early March he suggested looking into ways for helmets and face masks to prevent the spread of the virus and Oakley engineers "got the bit between their teeth."
Mayer added that he isn't sure exactly how the modifications would look, but he acknowledged that it is realistic to think the new designs could cover a player's entire face mask and that the engineers are working on everything such a design might entail.
"They've got some prototypes," Mayer said. "Some of them, when you first look at them, you think, 'gosh, no' because you're not used to seeing it … but they're looking at every issue you can imagine, including when it fogs up. ...These guys are used to dealing with this stuff."
Oakley has designed durable eyeglasses that don't fog up for the military, Mayer said.