Keeping it clean: protocols to keep wrestlers safe from covid

Wrestling is the antithesis of social distancing. The six-feet-apart rule does not exactly lend itself to the close-quarter grappling the sport entails. All the same, the sport is subject to its own set of regulations.

Full body Lysol cleaning before and after each bout

Each wrestler disinfects their entire body from head to toe before going into the ring and after the bout is finished. The impetus behind the rule is to kill as much bacteria. According to a peer-reviewed study in the American Journal of Infection Control, Lysol does kill COVID-19, and it is more efficient than showering before and after a bout.

Pre-bout mouthwash

In addition to a full-body disinfectant wipedown, wrestlers must use mouthwash in order to kill any bacteria in the mouth. It is not impossible for two wrestlers to quite literally swap spit during a bout, so the idea is that the mouthwash will kill any bacteria in the mouth before it goes airborne. But mouthwash cleans the user’s teeth, not the mouth itself. The chemicals in mouthwash are designed to kill plaque left over from brushing, not a virus left over from 2020. Even if wrestlers chose to swish hydrogen peroxide before a bout, it would not have any effect against the new saliva entering the mouth and the bacteria it contains.

Wrestlers may not shake hands after a bout

This rule is not specific to wrestling. That said, if a wrestling match takes place and one or more wrestlers contract COVID-19, it will almost certainly not be a result of them shaking their opponent’s hand after the bout. It may eliminate a non-essential form of contact, but banning handshakes in a sport where two people are interlocked with each other at all times taints the entire set of wrestling regulations with a sense of frivolousness, as though officials implemented a social distancing rule not for safety but for the sake of implementing a social distancing rule.

Referees may not declare a winner by raising the winning wrestler’s arm

Both wrestlers in a bout have no choice but to lock up with each other, but the referee can still be saved. Similar to boxing, raising the victor’s arm by their wrist is a formality at the end of a match, but it makes sense to eliminate since the referees could not only be endangered by infected wrestlers, but they could also be a danger themselves.