Religious head coverings, such as these hijabs, will now be sanctioned by FIBA for use in basketball games. Image courtesy of FIBA

International basketball rule change allows players to wear religious headgear

(Reuters) Basketball players will be allowed to wear headgear for religious reasons now that world governing body FIBA has approved a new regulation, which will take effect on October 1.

"The new rule comes as a result of the fact that traditional dress codes in some countries, which called for the head and/or entire body being covered, were incompatible with FIBA's previous headgear rule," FIBA — as the International Basketball Association is known — said in a statement Thursday (May 4).

Qatar's women's team withdrew from the 2014 Asian Games in South Korea after being denied permission to wear the hijab on court.

The decision, which overturns a 20-year ban on religious head coverings that was originally imposed for safety reasons, was ratified by Swiss-based FIBA's Mid-Term Congress in Hong Kong.

FIBA began a two-year revision and testing period in September 2014, granting exceptions at national level. It's central board approved a modification to the rule after receiving a report in January.

The Mid-Term Congress singled out, as an historical moment, a test game in Iran on April 13 that featured women wearing hijabs and "marked the first time men witnessed a women's sporting event in person."

FIBA said the new rule, which would also allow turbans and yarmulkes, would minimize the risk of injury while ensuring the uniform was of a consistent color.

The headgear must be black or white, or of the same dominant color as that of the uniform, and the same color for all players on a team.

It must not cover any part of the player's face entirely or partially, can have no opening or closing elements around the face and neck or pose a danger to any player.