September 1st, 2015 at 7:31 PM ^

Serious question: have studies ever been done to discern whether there is an advantage to playing home games almost a mile above sea level? It would seem like that would at least help you out in the 4th quarter in a tight game. I know that cyclists have spent months working out at high altitudes and then freeze their blood for later use when competing.

I only bring it up because approximately 48 hours does not seem like enough time to acclimate appropriately.


September 1st, 2015 at 7:53 PM ^

I don't play football, but I've done a ton of mountaineering around Seattle and live at 200 feet above sea level (lower than Ann Arbor). There is a HUGE difference between hiking from 500 to 2500 feet and hiking from 5000 to 7000 feet above sea level. I can feel the difference as soon as I get out of the car at Rainier or somewhere similar.

Everyone adjusts (or fails to adjust) to altitude differently. For me it's not linear and 48 hours is substantially better than 24, but not nearly as good as 96 or even 72.

People who spend there summers working at Rainier at 5400 or even 10,000 feet have a very large advantage over people who liive at sea level.

So yes, it makes a tangible difference, in my opinion.

Stu Daco

September 1st, 2015 at 8:20 PM ^

I haven't seen anything specific to football, but current models estimate that at 1400 meters, which is the altitude of Rice-Eccles Stadium, a runner would expect to see about a 4% increase in race time...if he's running a marathon.  In other words, it will not have an impact on the game.


September 2nd, 2015 at 12:47 AM ^

So did a friend of mine who flew for United.  William Langewiesche's book, Fly By Wire (about the Hudson River landing) makes clear how helpful it was to Sullenberger to be piloting the well-engineered Airbus 320.  But did you read WL's Vanity Fair piece on Air France 447 (an A330)?  He cites the simulated feel of hydraulic control in Boeings as an advantage over the fly-by-wire feel of the Airbus, one that might've saved the flight.


September 1st, 2015 at 7:44 PM ^

Re: Altitude

It's mostly psychological and for today's athlete not much of an issue.  For things like baseball flight and tee shots, the altitude makes a difference but the oxygen thing is over rated for a one time sporting event like football or basketball.

Now ...there is a reason that the US Olympic team trains at altitude in Colorado Springs and Park City for long-term conditioning - it's a benefit when competing at sea level.

I think the mere pace of Oregon's offense would be a bigger issue.  Any sort of altitude issues would be minimal but if Harbaugh is faced with a potential 60yd FG to win ....you might give it a shot!


September 1st, 2015 at 7:48 PM ^

Athletes are better conditioned?

I was on a ski trip like 10 years ago and a guy's wife (in good shape and a good skier) had trouble at the top of a mountain in Colorado. She was fine at the base, but just going up was in trouble. I guess it's not an issue for athletes? I have no clue.


September 1st, 2015 at 8:05 PM ^

I live in CO and have for most of my life.  The issue with altitude depends on a couple factors.  One factor is overall conditioning and health ..another is time to acclimate.  If someone flies from Santa Barbara to Vail and goes from sea level to 10,000 feet above and goes for a jog, even a conditioned runner will feel a significant difference in stamina and overall athletic performance.  Conversely, I can typically go further running at sea level than when running here at home - air just feels fuller at sea level.  It also pays off training at altitude when drinking alcohol at sea level...!

Good thing the team has 48hrs to adjust ..

If you move to altitude it takes about two weeks to full acclimate but the more common experience is shortness of breath after running up a flight of stairs and shallower, less sleep during adjustment.  Babies born in the moutains are all given oxygen as SOP simply due to the 'thinner air' at altitude.

But for 'world class athletes' like a football team, it isn't much of an issue ...or any more so than playing Miami(FL) in choking heat and humidity or at Arizona State when its 103 at a 7pm kickoff.

Personally, if I were a basketball coach at altitude, I would definitely run an up tempo offense and there are some who feel Peyton Manning's Hurry Up in Denver wears on teams at some point.

But in the end, it's really psychological.  Teams in Denver use it as they do in Wyoming and Utah.

If DeVeon Smith thinks he can't catch a full breath or thinks about it, it takes away just a little from being 100% focused.

Another antidote to altitude is frequent substitution and keeping players fresh.


Just my two cents ...


September 1st, 2015 at 8:11 PM ^

That's true and that's what a lot of visiting NFL teams do ...but then it also makes players feel they have to get oxygen between series and adds to the 'gamesmanship' angle.


As to the remark about alcohol and altitude ..definitely consider when tailgating, etc.  At altitude it is like for every two beers you've had, treat it like three and drink more water than you might nornally.

Most altitude sickness is actually simple dehydration.

The Dude

September 1st, 2015 at 9:37 PM ^

altitude sickness. Fitness level doesn't matter. I learned that reading up on AS before hiking in Colorado. 

They're only gaining about 3,800 feet of elevation. It sounds like a lot, but it really isn't. People in Denver that summit a 14er like Mount Evans, Pikes Peak, or Mount Elbert for example gain 9,000 plus feet in elevation. Just heading to Leadville is about 5,000 feet in elevation gain from Denver. For most people there aren't problems until they get above 6,000 to 8,000 feet, which is the range planes pressurize the cabin. 


September 2nd, 2015 at 12:18 AM ^

I've done Evans and Elbert, but haven't had the chance to do Pikes Peak yet.

My dad spent many summers in Georgetown and environs (8,530 ft and up) and never had any problems, but when he got into his 70s he encountered severe sleep apnea at that elevation and had to start staying in Idaho Springs (7526 ft), so altitude problems can develop at different stages in life.

To your point about the game in SLC, I agree that 3800 ft in gain shouldn't be significant. It might be more of a psychological issue than physical.




September 2nd, 2015 at 1:23 PM ^

Altitude Sickness is different than the question asking about altitude's impact on athletic performance ...

Altitude Sickness is almost 100% due to dehydration or quick ascension/decent and not based on the oxygen content at altitude.  Someone hiking a 14'er in Colorado should make a slow and gradual climb and descent in order to mitigatge the sickness but someone who drinks at night like they do at sea level will typically experience one hell of a hangover and that is because of excessive dehydration.  Not altitude, per se.