Sports equipment manufacturer Oakley announced they developed a new mouth shield that will protect players from COVID-19 by preventing the exchange of droplets.
Oakley, an official on-field partner of the NFL, has teamed up with the league to combat COVID-19. The NFL and NFL Players Association have collaborated to mitigate the coronavirus' spread on the football field and trust that they are one step closer to a solution: the Oakley Mouth Shield. Oakley, who already provides visors for NFL players, will have shields ready to distribute to all 32 teams for testing over the next week.
“We have well over 700 players that used the visors last year,” said Renie Anderson, chief revenue officer and executive vice president of NFL Partnerships.
Novel Coronavirus is new to the league, but the visor is not. The Oakley Mouth Shield has received a better reaction than their visors. Many players preferred other manufacturers' visors before the NFL required only Oakley shields. One point to consider is that Oakley designed the mouth shield in collaboration with doctors and engineers and players. The design features a clear plastic shield with slits or holes. The technology blocks any direct path of a droplet (from sweat or other fluids), but it promotes airflow, sound waves, and communication.
The Oakley Prizm Lens Technology is the technology the league is trusting to protect players. Used by military personnel, skiers, and now the NFL players, they design the lens with sheets extended down to attach to the faceguard. There are airways and openings on the mouth shield but none that allow the direct transmission of droplets, according to the chair of the NFL’s engineering committee, Dr. Jeff Crandall. “The player feedback was integral in coming up with this design.”
Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer was looking for a product design that provided protection without interfering with performance. “That’s what we will encourage,” said Dr. Allen Sills, “And we hope that we’re going to land on a product design that’s something that everyone would want to wear, because they’ll see the value and want that additional protection with no detriment to performance.”
NFL players are use to visors in their helmets without protection for their nose or mouth other than their mouthguard. “They had a visor that covers the eyes. What could we do to cover the mouth and nose area?” Crandall added. “So they came up with a mouth shield that tried to keep the field of view as much as possible; you don’t want to block the lower part. You want to promote breathing and not a sense of restriction. You want to maximize comfort."
“Prevention from touching the face was also a consideration, and obviously the biggest consideration was how can you mitigate the exchange of droplets,” he said. Sills noted they designed the shield to deal with how the virus spreads. “Just like any face shield or facemask, you’re thinking about the aerosolization of droplets and the spread of it via that mechanism, which is being recognized as the more important mode of transmission.”
Distance and football cannot coexist, and it impossible to social distance 6 feet apart on the field. The NFL and NFLPA continue negotiations for protective equipment, but many answers are still not in place.