Despite health hazard, Boston University basketball team will wear masks all season

Boston University’s basketball team wore face masks during its recent game against the College of the Holy Cross.

The school is forcing students to wear masks all season.

The World Health Organization and other health experts suspect that mask wearing during exercise is dangerous.

Boston University’s basketball team was required to wear masks during its game against the College of the Holy Cross.

Boston University Associate Athletic Director for Marketing and Communications Brian Kelley confirmed to Campus Reform that the school is requiring all opposing teams to wear masks when playing on its campus.

Boston University’s face covering policy states that face coverings must be worn “in any shared spaces, in BU student residences, in all University buildings, on the BU Shuttle, and on public transportation, as well as on the street and in public spaces.”

The policy qualifies that “wearing a face covering does not replace the need to maintain physical distancing and observing safety protocols in shared spaces.”

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Medical experts have expressed concern about the potential health ramifications of requiring masks during strenuous exercise. The World Health Organization stated that “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 and promotes the growth of microorganisms,” states the website of the international health agency. “The important preventive measure during exercise is to maintain physical distance of at least one meter from others.”

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Dr. Lindsay Bottoms, a physiology researcher at the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom, wrote that “a mask makes it harder to inhale the quantity of air needed to perform at the highest levels.” Because “wearing a surgical mask can increase the resistance to airflow... wearing a mask during exercise places a further strain on airflow.”

“With gyms looking to reopen and sports clubs wanting to resume, before anyone recommends wearing a face mask, research urgently needs to be undertaken to ensure the safety of the sporting community, regardless of any underlying conditions,” she said.

Bottoms reviewed Boston University’s mask policy and told Campus Reform that it is “pointless.”

“The topic of wearing a face-covering during exercise is a complex one,” she said. “If someone has underlying respiratory conditions then wearing a face covering may cause problems when exercising at high intensities.”

For healthy people, “the main problem is that your heart rate will be higher at a given exercise intensity. So you will not be able to play basketball at the same intensity as you would have been able to play at before.”

She noted that the reason WHO “does not recommend face coverings during sport is that they will become saturated very fast and then they become pointless.”

“Personally I do not think they should be worn for high-intensity exercise such as basketball,” said Bottoms. “But there is a risk for transmission of the virus. I think the safest way to play is knowing that your team is clear from COVID — this can be done through lateral flow testing.”

Campus Reform reached out to Boston University’s athletics department for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft