Parents worry Michigan mask mandate while playing football puts athlete's lives at risk

With Friday night lights back in action across the state, many student-athletes are excited to be back on the field but some parents are worried about the safety of their kids. Not because of COVID - but because of the requirement that they wear a mask.

Christina Thero says her son, Andrew, has never been injured playing football. That changed when he was required to wear a mask during football practice last week.

"He's never been injured the whole time he's been playing football and has been playing since 7th grade he very strong work ethic wors hard very diligent hard work on the field," Thero said.

The senior at L'anse Creuse High School North came home with a concussion 

"Having the mask on, causing the headache, causing him to be disoriented on the field so he wasn't seeing the field correctly. So he's surveying the field he normally does but he's missing things. His body wasn't responding like he normally has it so he kept getting hit the while practice," she said. "If you miss something in landing snap his neck and die, and it's very concerning as a parent I don't want to squash him by saying he can't play because he lives for it." 

COVID-19 is spread through airborne particles and affects everyone differently.

For months, we've all been practicing social distancing and wearing a mask when in close contact with others. 

So when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced football could be played this year, it came with the mandate that high school athletes wear a mask when doing so since they cannot stay six feet apart.

L'anse Creuse North was supposed to play Detroit Country Day on Friday night but positive COVID cases forced Country Day to cancel. L'anse Creuse took on Oxford instead, because its opponent, Lake Orion, was also forced to cancel because of COVID.

Thero says she doesn't believe there's enough science and data to support wearing a mask while playing football.

"Yes, we want our children to play and we believe the risk for them is minimal for COVID," she said.

That's why she and thousands of other parents are part of a Facebook group and have signed a petition to unmask athletes in all schools in  Michigan.

She says not only is there an injury risk beyond COVID, but she's also worried that Andrew's college chances and other athletes in Michigan are at a disadvantage compared to athletes in other states.

"That's the problem it is his senior year he needs to be able to show his best self," she said. "When a child is trying to get a scholarship they need to be able to perform at their best. Other states showing students who are at their best who are uninhibited and our children that will be inhibited so when they're looking at prospecting for colleges they are looking at a deficient Michigan player."

A rally is planned for Wednesday at the state capitol in Lansing.