Why Do Basketball Players Wear Masks?

Basketball is one of the most popular sports in America.

It’s also one of the most dangerous, with concussions being serious injuries that can cause permanent brain damage if not properly treated.

The sport of basketball presents its own set of unique injury risks.

Not only do NBA stars have to worry about getting hit in the head by another player, they have to be aware that a flailing arm from an opponent could give them a broken nose or a deep facial cut!

Because of this, some professional basketball players choose to wear a mask while competing.

And that leads us on to the answer for this article’s topic, which is…

Basketball players primarily wear masks in order to protect a previous injury sustained to the face that is yet to heal. A mask acts in the same way that a helmet does, in the sense that it offers a protective barrier to the injured facial area, safeguarding it against further damage.

Although the list of reasons for wearing a mask doesn’t stop there.

Read on to learn more.

Reasons why basketball players wear masks

Let’s take a closer look at the three main reasons why basketball players wear masks.

1. For protection of a previous facial injury

why basketball players wear masks - for protection of a previous facial injury

There are a number of different ways that a person could sustain a face/head injury before making it onto an NBA roster.

Some players may have suffered a prior fracture or dislocation to the jawbone, cheek bone or teeth, while others might have sustained a blow to the skull itself.

If the injury was severe enough, the player may need reconstructive craniofacial surgical procedures.

A mask helps protect against future injuries and also provides additional support while recovering from the original injury.

A study published in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation found that athletes who wore a mouthguard after sustaining a fractured lower central incisor showed significant improvements in bite force compared to those who didn’t use a mouthguard.

Researchers believe that this could help reduce the time needed for bone union.

2. To speed up the injury healing process

why basketball players wear masks - to speed up the injury healing process

When an athlete sustains a traumatic brain injury, the body reacts in order to reduce inflammation and swelling around the brain.

One part of the healing process involves producing proteins called cytokines.

When a wound becomes infected, bacteria enter into the bloodstream causing inflammation.

Similarly, when a person suffers a brain injury, the immune system sends out inflammatory cells to fight infection.

However, the presence of these cells can slow down the healing process.

That’s why you’ll see patients with severe head traumas placed on life support machines to allow their brains’ natural anti-inflammatory response to heal the injury.

Masking your face allows you to maintain a healthy level of moisture surrounding your eyes, nose and mouth.

Also, by keeping your mouth closed, you won’t accidentally inhale any irritants released from open wounds.

By wearing a mask, you can create a barrier between yourself and the outside world, allowing your body to focus all of its energy on healing rather than fighting infections.

3. To attract attention from fans, opposition players and the media

why basketball players wear masks - attracting fan and media attention

One thing that almost every NBA star wants is attention.

While they’re on the court, the best way to get everyone’s undivided attention is to make sure they know you’re there.

Wearing a mask will certainly draw some unwanted attention, but it doesn’t have to be negative.

Firstly, players are able to draw the attention of people in the crowd when they wear a mask on court.

It’s not something that’s seen as usual, so it typically looks pretty cool when an athlete is geared up with a mask over their face.

On the other hand, the mask can be a massive help from a game perspective.

This is because opponents can be intimidated by a player who wears a mask on court.

Striking such fear in the hearts and minds of the opposition team is a good thing, as it can improve your own team’s chances of winning.

Finally, you’re likely to receive a bit of media coverage when you wear a mask during a game.

This includes still camera shots taken by local reporters as well as small pieces of video footage that showcase an athlete playing with a mask on during a game.

Some news outlets may even go a step further and state the reason for a player wearing a mask, citing a previous injury sustained in a recent fixture.

If players are after press coverage and a spot in the limelight, then wearing a mask can be a pretty effective way of getting the light shown on them.

Which famous basketball players have worn masks in the past?

Some of the world’s best basketball players have featured on court with a mask worn over their face.

Let’s now look at some of the stars who’ve had to play with this piece of equipment on.

Kobe Bryant

In a 2012 NBA All Star game, Kobe Bryant suffered a nasal fracture after clattering into Dwayne Wade.

He had to wear a black mask over his face for added protection so that he could carry on playing whilst the injury healed over time.

Within the period of 11 games that he wore a mask, he averaged 31.1 points which was quite incredible.

Eventually, Bryant was able to auction one of his masks for his foundation at approximately 50,000 dollars.

Lebron James

This guy has worn masks at different points in his professional basketball career.

He’s donned this piece of gear for the Cleveland Cavaliers as well as the Miami Heat, and he even managed to get a nickname called “Dark Night” because his performances were so good when playing with a mask on.

Russel Westbrook

Mr Westbrook went through some of the worst pain imaginable when he sustained an accidental blow to the face from his own team mate – Andre Robinson.

Westbrook carried on playing with a transparent face mask, and in the process, he managed to score an impressive 49 points in one game when he had worn it.

To summarise their brilliance, here’s a short clip which compiles the legendary performances of these mask-wearing athletes:

Closing thoughts

If you’ve read through this article up to this point, chances are you already play basketball.

Now you’re fully equipped with knowledge on why professional basketball players sometimes wear masks during games.

We encourage you to talk to your doctor about whether or not a mask would benefit you personally.

And whilst you’re still here, check out a few other posts on the blog like:

About Samuel Waihenya

Samuel is an avid fan of basketball and has been following the sport for over 10 years. He now intends to dedicate his time to produce great content for his own little basketball blog that aims to help its readership with whatever basketball-related topic they can think of. Have a read through Samuel Waihenya's author bio page here.