Youth sports return with mandatory masks

Garrett Short
Updated: December 30, 2020 06:37 PM
Created: December 30, 2020 06:18 PM

(ABC 6 News) - The Minnesota State High School League has made masks a requirement as youth sports return in January.

Practices may begin on Jan. 4 and competitions can begin on Jan. 14. The biggest change for winter sports is an addition of required equipment: masks.

"I talked to a couple of coaches from Wisconsin and they said it took a couple of weeks to get used to, but after they got used to it, things just went on as normal," Kingsland boys basketball coach John Fenske said.

People have voiced their concerns over athletes not getting enough air during play, but healthcare professionals say that isn't a worry, even for those with asthma.

"From a strictly scientific, medical basis, you're able to maintain your oxygenation and you're able to breathe and function," Mayo Clinic Professor of Family Medicine and Orthopedics Dr. Chad Asplund said.

Dr. Asplund says wet masks may limit oxygen, so athletes should keep multiple with them at practices and games to cycle in and out.

"In the ice rink they're going to get soaked even faster so what I'm going to recommend to my players is to buy bags of those paper masks and keep them in their hockey bag," Mayo girls hockey coach Mike McCormack said.

Even though healthcare professionals say masks won't limit oxygen, coaches are still going to be more focused than ever with their athletes' well-being.

"We'll have to make sure we give them the right to let us know, 'hey I need out right now,' and then we'll have to get someone else in their quickly. And we need to make sure the players know that, that it's not going to be held against them if they need to come out of course," Fenske said.

Wrestling, gymnastics, cheerleading as well as swimming and diving are exempt from the required masks because they could constrict athletes and cause safety issues.

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