With the passing of this year's Diwali celebrations, the year 2020 has presented another cause of concern with the rise of poor air quality and pollution. Despite a firecracker ban being imposed by the Supreme Court in several states, the air quality in New Delhi plunged to the "severe" category, and the AQI reached soaring levels as people defied the ban on firecrackers. Air pollution has many forms and is caused by several factors. What was already a case of low air quality due to the burning of farms in the neighboring states turned into havoc in the national capital on the morning after the festival of lights. This led to the suffering of various industries, especially the sports industry and the young athletes in it significantly.
There is little doubt that air pollution is harmful to the lungs. Young athletes are especially vulnerable to air pollution as their lungs are still growing and developing. It is essential for these young athletes' well-being that they remain physically active and on-form in this competitive world. The sheer amount of air pollution in the environment poses a risk to their body and development, especially for sportspersons. Pranay Khanna, a former Under-18 graduate of FC Barcelona's Escola School in Haryana said, "Every year, Diwali brings happiness to us with all the lights, but these lights are covered with the gloomy air pollution that covers our skies and makes it difficult for us to even breathe normally. For young people, it is a burden as we like to go out and play various sports like football, cricket, badminton, and this air pollution causes a lot of problems in playing these sports as it leads to watery eyes, lack of breath and overall, makes one feel like they are playing for the sake of it in a gas chamber."
A study published by Breathe GB earlier this year suggests that children who exercise in high pollution areas will experience stunted lung function that will limit their future sporting performance. Dr. Ian Mudway, a senior lecturer in respiratory toxicology at King's College London, said, "A child growing up with asthma in a polluted city will have worse symptoms that will limit their potential to train, which is likely to have an impact on their optimal level of performance." Another source of this study claimed, "children with clinically low lung function will have reduced exercise capacity." (The Guardian, Jessica Murray, 2020)
These statements are critical to consider as air pollution can have a massive impact on young players' future well-being and the future well-being of sports as a whole.
Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, quite a few precautions were taken by the state governments and the Supreme Court during the festive season of Diwali. However, these precautions did not affect some people as they continued to burst firecrackers and pollute the environment. Since the Covid already causes problems to our respiratory system, the resulting air pollution after Diwali celebrations made things more difficult for those fighting the virus and made playing sports more difficult for young players and children.
Dr. Ian Mudway further said, "We need children to be going out and exercising, and we need them to be exercising in air that is as clean as possible. Training and performing exercise under the best possible conditions is better for their health and will encourage them to exercise more." Despite echoing voices from around the globe for good air quality, it is quite disturbing to learn that the actions of few citizens who feel non-obligated to contribute towards the well-being of the environment pose a severe threat to those on the playing field.
Edited by Aviva Baig and Ananya Jain