Masks should be required for indoor sports

COVID-19 risks outweigh improved breathing


Michael Hoikka

Senior Blake Anderson drives to the net looking to make a basket. Athletes are not required to wear masks during practices and games, but they are recommended by the athletic department and MSHSL.

Adam Gips

Omicron. It’s been the only thing one can hear. But with over 1,500 cases every day in Hennepin County, it’s becoming a real cause for concern. And with indoor sports still not mandating masks, it’s even scarier.

According to the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL), masks are strongly recommended for athletic participants who aren’t actively playing, and not even suggested for active participants. But high case numbers along with the contagious nature of Omicron, have ushered coronavirus to the forefront of our minds. Personally, I feel unsafe at school — a place where a majority of the students wear their masks. And when someone isn’t wearing their mask correctly in school, I can feel the air particles approaching me like an angry swarm of bees. But for sporting events, it’s more distressing. The basic act of breathing during physical exercise increases the likelihood for mass infection. Therefore, games could become super-spreading events. 

But despite the risk of super-spreading events, athletes continue to be self-oriented. As if their ability to breathe outweighs public health. Wearing a mask while playing a sport is manageable. Last year, I wore a mask while skiing and playing soccer. Even though my mask would get grimy near the end of a game or practice, it was worth lessening my COVID-19 risk. Some people claim that wearing a mask impairs their ability to breathe. But is it worth a whole team being out for two weeks? Additionally, there are long-term side effects likely to impact the future of any given athlete. If I were a basketball or hockey player, I would not trade better breathing during a handful of games for my future health.

Another scary part of this COVID-19 predicament is that even if masks were hypothetically mandated, like last year, would athletes even wear them? In the photos I’ve seen and games I’ve attended with mask mandates, no one was wearing a mask over their chin, mouth and nose. It would typically rest on the chin like a spare tire waiting for its eventual, but short use. However, mandating masks for sporting events would reduce the transmission because some athletes would comply. Others may not. But referees would have the leverage to enforce these rules during games. 

While wearing a mask is inconvenient for playing indoor sports, it is necessary with the Omicron variant. COVID-19 is not some nuisance that can be ignored.