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MBABANE – Is wearing masks safe for athletes during the current COVID-19 pandemic?

That is the question on the minds of many after social media was abuzz yesterday following circulating reports about three athletes from China and neighbouring South Africa that died exercising while wearing face masks.

One of the runners is said to have suffered a collapsed lung and died. Fear has gripped athletes as they are questioning the safety of face masks and the ideal ones suitable for exercising.

warned athletes

One of Eswatini’s fitness trainers Bongani Mthupha, warned athletes against the use of cotton masks but advised them to use those that are specifically designed for athletes. He said the cotton mask restrict breathing since it was not designed for intense training.

“The cotton or cloth mask is dangerous because when you run, you need a lot of oxygen and the mask does not allow that. It makes it tough to breath. People should be careful on the type of mask they use. I would suggest maintaining two meter-distances while running instead of using the mask,” said Mthupha.

On the other hand, Blast and Burn Transformers Studio coach Arnaldo Barbosa observed that Eswatini Government must educate athletes about the masks to avoid fatalities.

“These masks are not for athletes. It’s so unfortunate that the athletics masks are not even sold in our country and that being the case, people are going to die since the masks are a must since we are in the fight of COVID-19,” noted Barbosa.

On a medical perspective, Eswatini Football Association’s Vice President, who is also a doctor by profession, Comfort Shongwe advised athletes to run a medical check-up first before exercising with a mask on. He said that people with medical conditions such as hypertension were at risk of dying during exercise. He discouraged the use of clinical masks for training as they were not designed for exercise.

“Every person needs to do a medical check-up and be advised of the type of training that is suitable for their body. The clinical masks were not designed for exercise so I am made to believe that the athletes who died while training might have been using the wrong masks or they had certain medical conditions,” said Shongwe.

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