Trumbull basketball coaches talk about wearing masks

Basketball coaches at Trumbull High have weighed in on having their players wear masks this coming season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trumbull boys’ basketball coach Buddy Bray said, “Regarding the masks on players during a practice or game situation, I will always follow the state and school rules and procedures regarding the players safety and if they ok the use of masks then we will practice with them on and prepare for the games. This is obviously new territory for all of us coaches and players and we will see in the next few weeks what transpires.”

Governor Ned Lamont has ruled that athletes between grades K-12 playing moderate risk indoor sports such as basketball must compete wearing a mask. The CIAC has moved the proposed starting date of the winter season to Jan. 19.

Trumbull girls’ basketball coach Steve Tobitsch said, “We are planning on having a high school hoops season starting on January 19 and we are very optimistic that we will have some version of a high school hoops season this winter. Whenever we are allowed to start, we will follow all COVID-19 procedures to help ensure the health and safety of our student athletes and coaches.”

Dr. Matthew Rothbard, an athletic trainer who teaches athletic training at Southern Connecticut State University, feels it is safe to wear a mask as reported by Hearst Connecticut Media

“Is it safe? Yes, it is safe,” said Rothbard, who is in his 12th year at Southern Connecticut and has been an athletic trainer for more than two decades. “Athletes in close-proximity of each other, the prevention of spreading COVID outweighs the risk of negatively impacting performance. It outweighs the risk of not being able to play at all. If you give me a choice of playing with a mask or not playing at all, I’ll play with a mask.”

While Rothbard said it is safe and can be done, he feels wearing a mask will “negatively impact high intensity performance” starting with air flow to the lungs.

“That is called ventilation. It restricts air flow. It’s kind of like a chain reaction,” Rothbard said. “The second thing that happens is it decreases the body’s ability to transport and use oxygen. That in turn decreases the amount of oxygen in the blood and that’s called oxygen saturation.”

Rothbard noted that wearing a mask could also lead to a decrease in the power or ability to jump and athletes could become more fatigued quicker than normal because of the restricted oxygen flow.

“For close contact, you have to stay within close-proximity (of another person) for 15 minutes. Is there a risk? Sure, but it is minuscule, it’s negligible,” Rothbard said. “Of course, the mask is going to come off. It comes off when you are going to the grocery store. The masks are not custom fitted off the shelf. They are not perfect so you do the best you can with what you got.”

Bill Lunn, the director of the Human Performance Lab at SCSU, hopes to one day conduct tests with athletes wearing masks. Lunn said the lab is not currently conducting any tests due to the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

“If we were to test them, we could determine airflow through the mask at varying exercise intensities, and also could measure carbon dioxide output/oxygen uptake while wearing the mask,” said Lunn, also a professor in the Department of Health and Movement Sciences at the university. “I have seen anti-mask enthusiasts provide evidence of the danger of re-breathing carbon dioxide when wearing a mask, but these results are dubious, at best.”

Joe Morelli contributed to this report. Twitter: @blox354