With the lifting of New Hampshire's mask mandate by Gov. Chris Sununu will student athletes still be required to wear them?

The state's "Safer at Home" guidelines require all participants in youth sports including athletes, parents and staff, to wear a mask "when not actively engaged in athletics." The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association (NHIAA) took it a step further by requiring athletes who are in close contact to wear masks "when possible."

Sununu says he will be changing the "Safer at Home" guidelines on May 7 into what he calls universal best practice with details yet to be released including how that will affect mask requirements for student athletes.

No pro leagues or the NCAA requires athletes to wear masks during competition.

Two online petitions are asking the NHIAA to end the requirement for student athletes including one from Pembroke Academy where track and field coach Brad Keyes was fired after he told administrators at the public school he would not require students to mask up.

The petition cites a story in the journal Clinical Research in Cardiology stating that wearing a mask while competing "could present increased risks of respiratory distress, increased fatigue, cardiovascular problems, loss of consciousness, and more."

The students have no issue with wearing them before a meet and afterwards when their breathing and heart rates come down.

The second is from a Manchester parent with health concerns and the politics of the decision after mask wearing became an issue during fall sports playoffs.

"With the declining Covid-19 infection rates coupled with the increased numbers of those over the age of 16 being vaccinated and the CDC revised guidelines, it is more clear than ever, that the need for masks during competition is not necessary," reads the petition.

The CDC advises the use of masks by all staff, athletes and spectators at all times including during actual competition.  However, it  recognizes that during "high intensity activities like running" mask wearing may cause difficulty breathing as does wearing them with mouth guards and helmets. The CDC also advises limiting high intensity sports indoors.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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