Masks and Winter Sports

Masks+and+Winter+Sports

Olivia Schelling, Staff Writer

Many athletes this year have to wear masks during practices and games. Is this something that should be allowed, or something that is hindering their performance?  As an athlete, masks have been a safe haven. I have felt more comfortable going to practices and games knowing that everyone near has been wearing them. I know what it is like to workout in a mask and keep that mask on for hours on end. It is certainly not a pleasant feeling, and all we want to do is rip it off. At the end of the day, athletes push past this uncomfortable feeling. 

“Cloth face coverings have been found to be tolerated well by the majority of people who wear them for exercise” (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2020).

While on a team, athletes have to make sure that everyone on their team if comfortable in being there. If masks solve that problem, then teams need to wear them.

 “Part of being on a team is defending and protecting your teammates. One of the best ways that athletes can do that is to wear a mask or cloth face coverings for most sports to reduce the risk of spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.” (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2020). 

This is what makes a team a team. Sacrificing what you may think is right, to make those around you feel comfortable. 

Contact sports, basketball and ice hockey, have to wear masks in the state of Michigan during practices and games. They are required to keep them on no matter if a COVID-19 test comes back negative. Wrestling on the other hand, is not required to wear masks because it can become a choking hazard. 

“All participants must have a negative rapid antigen test on either the day before (done in conjunction with home weigh-in) or day of a meet or a negative PCR test within 72 hours of competition. All tested wrestlers would be able to compete without wearing a mask during the match; masks would be required of all individuals at all other times during meets and practices.” (MHSAA, Feb 8, 2021).

Non-Contact sports, cheerleading and gymnastics, only have you wear masks during certain times.

“Cloth face coverings should not be worn for competitive cheerleading (tumbling/stunting/flying) and gymnastics (while on the different apparatuses), because the covering may get caught on objects and become a choking hazard or accidently impair vision.” (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2020).

On February 8, 2021, MHSAA announced that masks will be worn at all times during practices and competitions for cheerleading. This goes past the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Michigan athletes have to follow the orders of the MHSAA. These orders are constantly changing, so make sure to be aware of what the newest orders on masks are for your sport. You can find this information at mhsaa.com and look at the return to play section. 

I believe that all sports should be required to wear a mask, no matter what. It makes the athletes that are anxious with the virus want to participate. The athletes may feel safe.  There will always be risks behind masks, but fall sports had no problem with wearing them. If cheerleaders in the fall could stunt and tumbling with masks, it can be done now for their competitive season. Football players wore face shields which still provided protection against the virus. I do not think that sports should be allowed without some sort of protection. Masks have not been proven to disrupt the way athletes work. Yes, it is a lot harder to participate in sports with a mask on, but that does not mean it can not happen. Athletes continue to show how flexible they are when it comes to wearing masks. 

 

Masks provide a safety net for athletes, including me,  and others around them. As an athlete, my personal feelings towards masks are simple. They make me want to participate in sports. They relieve the anxious feelings in my brain regarding the virus. I understand the science behind not wearing them, and that it can be safe for my age group, but it’s a comfort issue. For the past year, athletes have had to postpone their season or continue with a mask. We have to learn to be okay with this new normal. Making athletes feel safe needs to be a priority. I do not believe that masks are as harmful for an athlete as one would think. I get through practices and conditioning everyday wearing one. On the other hand, I also believe that if athletes are spread apart (6+ feet), they can pull down their mask to breathe. In close contact, athletes need to be wearing masks, no matter the sport. 

 

Masks should be worn on bus trips to venues, team discussions, moving from locker rooms to the gym/court, when it’s not possible to stay 6 feet apart (during prolonged close contact), and any indoor event. Masks can be removed during water sports. Wet masks may be harder to breathe through according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Also, masks that become saturated with sweat should be changed regularly. Cloth face masks should be washed everyday after use. These are all ways to ensure that athletes are safe. 

 

In the end, masks have not been proven to disrupt anyone who exercises. Athletes continue to show resilience against the orders of wearing them. They have also shown that they can still do what they love with the addition of a mask. One of the best things that athletes can do for themselves and their teammates is wear a mask. From one athlete to another, we can and will make this work.