Off with the mask, say gasping athletes

Off with the mask, say gasping athletes

Representative image

As we all have experienced by now, it is tough walking with a mask strapped across our faces. Imagine the same when you are expected to train and perform at a world-class level.

This is the world of masked athletes in a Covid-19 environment, and they are not pleased with it.

"It’s practically impossible especially when we’re running into bowl," said Indian paceman Jaydev Unadkat. "We can learn to play with them but it's not ideal. Probably not safe even. It’s like those altitude training masks. We use that once in a while and that makes it harder to breathe by reducing oxygen intake but we use that only in short bursts during training."

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According to eminent pulmonologist K S Satish, however, it isn’t the lack of oxygen which is the issue, it’s the carbon dioxide buildup that causes people - more so those exerting themselves - to faint and in some cases collapse. The expert reiterated that no one should train with masks on. "Maintain distance and hygiene but that’s about it," he offered.  

"I train without the mask," says Dutee Chand, the Asian Games silver medallist. "I'm a sprinter and my training generally is of high intensity and I've read that wearing masks and training is not good. It's impossible and impractical to train with masks on."

The Ministry of Home Affairs issued a circular at the time of the second pandemic-forced lockdown in India which mandated everyone to wear a 'secure mask' when outside, especially when social distancing norms can not be maintained. 

Since then, there have been reports of amateur joggers and those in training hospitalised. Despite these concerns, sporting bodies in the country, including the Sports Authority of India, have announced that the government directive will "supersede the SOP", meaning athletes have to wear a mask and ensure it’s tight too. 

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