MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Youth sports have started back up in Minnesota on Monday with some changes.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) says face coverings are now required at all times, including practices and games. There are some safety exemptions for swimming, wrestling, gymnastics and cheerleading.

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Fifteen-year-old Ava Holman has been playing basketball in a mask for months.

“When you start off, it isn’t like exactly easy, because you do feel different,” Holman said.

But she and her 10-year-old sister, Demi, adjusted quickly.

“Now that we’ve been doing it for longer, it feels normal now,” Demi said.

MDH allows cloth masks, neck gaiters, bandanas, scarves and religious face coverings, but recommends they be two-layers thick. Experts say choose a covering that works best for your child to ensure he or she will wear it.

The Holman sisters tried five different kinds before choosing the ones they could breathe in most easily.

(credit: The Holman Family)

WCCO spoke to Hennepin Healthcare pediatrician Dr. Krishnan Subramanian about masks and athletes.

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“They are safe. We know that people are going to feel a difference in terms of their exertion and breathing,” Subramanian said. “Young athletes are going to have to communicate with their coaches and say, Hey, I might need a little bit more of a breather here and there.’”

MDH cited two studies that studied the physiological effects of face masks during exercise in adults. One study found the differences between masking at rest and during exercise to be negligible. In the other study, there were no differences in oxygen saturation and heart rate between the masked and unmasked participants during peak exercise.

School districts across the metro told WCCO on Monday that the Minnesota Department of Health has given three facemasks to each student. Some districts have given additional ones.

Robbinsdale Schools said it recommends whatever kind of mask a student can tolerate. According to Hopkins Public Schools Students Activities Director Dan Johnson, students are asked to have several masks so they don’t wear the same mask two days in a row.

“Many students have one mask to use during active participation and another during the slower-paced parts of the day,” Johnson said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says if a face covering becomes saturated, it should be immediately changed. Experts says a wet face covering can interfere with breathing.

“We recommend masks for all levels of physical activity and exertion,” Subramanian said.

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He added that anyone who has difficulty keeping up, including young athletes with asthma, should talk with their doctor about whether they are healthy enough to play.

Heather Brown