Sports Science: How altitude impacts athletic performance

We have always heard about the impact of high altitude on an athlete’s performance.

The air is less dense in higher elevations, so it is much more difficult to take full breaths. As a result, athletes who are not used to training at altitude can often “gas out” or appear “winded” much quicker than they generally would.

On Monday night, the NFL head to Mexico City for the first time in Monday Night Football history and the Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans will have to deal with the effects of high altitude.

The game will be played at Estadio Azteca — which is 42 percent higher in elevation than the highest stadium in the NFL, with 23 percent less dense air. Those factors can cause a drop in aerobic fitness by 13 percent.

There is a strong chance we could see players from both teams — who play near sea level — struggling with the altitude in Mexico City and ESPN’s Sports Science provided a detailed explanation of what we could see play out on Monday night.

But while the negative effects of high altitude are well-documented, there can also be some benefits.

Players may be able to run faster, quarterbacks could throw harder and kickers could boot the ball further thanks to the less dense air. One thing is for sure: it will be fun to watch.

You can check out the Sports Science breakdown of the effects of high altitude on athletes in the video below:

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