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The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 2021 Oct 15

DOI: 10.23736/S0022-4707.21.12814-2


language: English

Safety of surgical masks during phisical activity evaluated with graded cycle ergometry test

M. Cristina PASQUALETTO 1 , Domenico TUTTOLOMONDO 2, Nicola GAIBAZZI 2, M. Cristina BARATELLA 1, Pietro CASOLINO 1, Maria STEFANI 1, Stefania REATO 1, Elisa TATTAN 1, Maria D. SORBO 1, Lucio BIGON 3, Franco GIADA 3, Manuele NIZZETTO 4, Chiara FERRARA 5, Alessandra GALIOTTO 5, Moreno SCEVOLA 5, Fausto RIGO 1

1 Division of Cardiology, Dolo Hospital AULSS 3, Venice, Italy; 2 Cardiology and Cardiac Imaging Department, Parma University Hospital, Parma, Italy; 3 Sport Medicine Division, Dolo Hospital AULSS 3, Venice, Italy; 4 Sub-Intensive Care COVID Unit in Pneumology, Dolo Hospital AULSS 3, Venice, Italy; 5 Dolo Hospital AULSS 3 Venice, Non-critical COVID Area in Internal Medicine, Venice, Italy


AIMS: At the time of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic wearing surgical mask (SM) is recommended for the prevention of contracting or exposing others to airborne transmission of COVID-19. It is somewhat controversial whether wearing SM during exercise affects performance and health status and/or may influence the results. In order to give an answer we planned a prospective, randomized, crossover study to evaluate the effects of wearing a SM or no-SM in 33 (17 male) physically active helthy subjects during a graded exercise cycle ergometry test.
METHODS: The two tests were performed in random order in the same subjects. The participants were all tested the same day, after a recovery time of at least of one hour, in order to avoid interferences on physical performances. Arterial oxygen saturation, heart rate and arterial blood pressure were assessed throughout the exercise tests every step of two minutes, at the end of exercise, performed at the same time with and without mask.
RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: Wearing SM had no effect on performance, since the duration of cycle ergometry test with SM and without SM median, respectively, was 14.2, [lower-upper quartile 13.9-14.8] versus 14.3 [13.9-15.5] minutes, p=0.094, and median peak power was 150 W [150-180] versus 150 W [120-180] p=0.754. When expressed relative to peak exercise performance, no differences were found between wearing or not wearing SM regarding arterial oxygen saturation, or heart rate at any time during the exercise tests. Wearing SM during vigorous exercise had no detrimental effect on cardiovascular parameters, as well as on exercise metrics in all participants. No ventricular repolarization abnormalities and no arrhythmias were reported on the electrocardiograms.

KEY WORDS: Physical activity; Coronavirus; Pulse oximetry; COVID-19; Cycle ergometry test; Surgical face mask

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