Athletes should not have to wear masks while playing

A+sign+outside+of+Athletic+Director+Jerry+Pettinger%27s+office+reminds+students+and+visitors+that+masks+are+required+at+all+times.

Ava Krueger

A sign outside of Athletic Director Jerry Pettinger’s office reminds students and visitors that masks are required at all times.

Jackson Bisson, Staff Writer

The Minnesota State High School League announced the return to play plan for winter sports which says masks are required during play, with exceptions for gymnastics, cheerleading, wrestling, swimming, and diving. This mandate runs contrary to both science and conventional wisdom. Masks while playing sports can be extremely dangerous, and at the time when the MSHSL issued the mandate, the three leading Health Organizations (in the world, the U.S, and the State of MN) were clear about this.

 According to the World Health Organization, “People should NOT wear masks when exercising, as masks may reduce the ability to breathe comfortably. Sweat can make the mask become wet more quickly which makes it difficult to breathe.” Similarly, the CDC states “Opt for an activity that does not require using mouth guards or helmets. Wearing a mask with these types of protective equipment is not safe if it makes it hard to breathe.” The Mayo Clinic was similarly clear, saying “You should expect to experience an increase in your heart rate while exercising with a mask on. Because of this, people often experience a perceived increase of exertion and decreased performance during resistance training and aerobic exercise.” *Note that the Mayo clinic modified their recommendation AFTER the MSHSL issued their mandate.*

How can it be safe for athletes running or skating for extended periods of time to breathe?”

— Jackson Bisson

 All of the hospitals advise you not to wear masks while exercising, let alone playing a sport. How can it be safe for athletes running or skating for extended periods of time to breathe? Additionally, hockey players are required to wear mouthguards and helmets, which is directly a contradiction of the CDC’s mandates. This is clearly extremely dangerous and this rule should be lifted immediately.

I agree with the fact that we have to prevent the spread of Covid and save lives, but playing with a mask is just too much. I have first hand experience – I am currently on the hockey team, and trying to play with a mask covering my nose and mouth makes it extremely difficult for my teammates and I to breathe comfortably. Currently every professional and collegiate sports teams do not have to play with a mask on, and they are doing just fine. Also, fall sports didn’t have to play with a mask on, so why should we? I have also heard reports from other winter sports teams saying that they feel lightheaded, dizziness, nauseous, and in some extreme cases, fainting as a direct result of playing high-intensity games with a mask on. 

While playing these high intensity sports for extended periods of time, it is inevitable that the athlete will start to sweat. As a result of this, the mask can become soggy and sweaty which can make it extremely difficult to breathe, and the athlete may be forced to go through multiple masks a game. The athlete will also worry if it is over their nose and mouth, which could deter their focus from actually performing at the highest level. Overall, given the heightened risk in mask wearing for high intensity sports and activities, and the science showing 99.9% survival rate from COVID for MN high school aged kids and younger, the MSHSL should reconsider the mask wearing policy.