The runner, Maggie Williams, said she fell "at the right spot," crossing the line with her head. She recalled pushing herself so hard just before she fell face-first. This end to her race worried her coach, Turnbull, who was considering not allowing Williams to run the event again given current state guidelines.
Turnbull blamed his runners' collapse on the mask she was wearing, stating that Williams suffered "complete oxygen debt."
"This is what I am worried about, and I said this at the beginning of the season. You get a kid running the [800-meter race] with a mask on, it is actually dangerous. They don't get the oxygen that they need. This rule needs to change," said Turnbull.
Turnbull is now calling on the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and on Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to reconsider a mask mandate. Currently, Oregon is the only state that mandates the wearing of face masks during outdoor high school competitions, even among athletes.
Turnbull is hopeful that his request will be granted. He said he sent the OHA and the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) pictures of Williams hitting the ground, adding that he warned them of such a possibility during a meeting more than a month ago.
"The very reason we wear the masks to protect others is now a liability for the athlete when they increase respiration to the levels these athletes need," said Turnbull.
On Thursday, April 22, Turnbull posted a picture of Williams sitting on the ground after the race on Facebook. In his post, Turnbull said she was proud of Williams but that he was worried about the next fall.
He also implored the OHA and the OSAA to look at the science of COVID-19 transmission outdoors, which he said has been nonexistent. "We need some air and good old common sense."
Williams isn't an isolated case. A survey released in January showed that 14 children collapsed and another 11 needed emergency care after playing sports with face masks on.
The survey was conducted by Let Them Play MN, a grassroots advocacy group comprised of parents, students and community members who recognize the importance of youth sports for children and young adults' physical and emotional well-being.
The group has been working for the past 11 months to keep youth sports running safely. But more recently, the group has been seeking to overturn Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz's mandate that requires children to wear masks even during sports play.
Survey results showed that nearly half of more than 2,500 respondents experienced dizziness while 84 percent experienced shortness of breath while playing sports with a mask on. (Related: Are you suffering from back pain and shortness of breath? You may have strained muscles.)
Dawn Gillman, founder and executive director of Let Them Play MN, said the survey result speak for themselves. "[Mandatory] mask requirements during competition are dangerous."
When the survey was released, Gillian said she hoped the results would persuade Walz to reconsider mask requirements for youth sports. In fact, the organization sued Walz, citing equal protection and due process violations with the mandate that it claims unfairly singled out youth athletes.
But in February, a federal judge denied a legal challenge to Minnesota's mask requirements for youth sports. Hon. Eric Tostrud, U.S. District Court judge for the District of Minnesota, said the appropriate audience for the group's objections are Minnesota's political branches, not a federal court. Nonetheless, Tostrud found evidence supporting the group's health concerns about masks to be credible.
Learn more about the health risks associated with mask-wearing when doing sports at Pandemic.news.