Sunday, January 25, 2009

The altitude advantage

New Broncos coach Josh McDaniels remembers seeing a sign posted over the visitors locker room at Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver when he was a Patriots assistant playing the Broncos.

"I always remember that '5,280 feet' sign above the visiting locker room and the warnings about what can happen to you at this altitude. We always studied the oxygen effects on players when we came to Denver. Altitude can be a real asset if you control the football and don't turn it over."

Curious, I went looking for some information about Denver's altitude.

According to this site:

"People traveling to altitudes of 5,000 feet and above from sea level are at increased risk of developing altitude illness associated with decreased excercise performance and increased work of breathing. Denver's air pressure and oxygen level are 17 percent less than at sea level. Our bodies try to maintain the oxygen level in the blood through increased rate of breathing. This increased respiratory rate decreases the level of carbon dioxide in the blood--basically, hyperventilation, which may make a person feel weak, dizzy, or faint."

When he was named head coach of the Nuggets in 2002, Jeff Bzdelik (now the head coach at Colorado), promised "to utilize the altitude here."

Despite the research cited above, former Nuggets coach Doug Moe (pictured above), the 1988 NBA coach of the year who was legendary for his uptempo offense, "called the altitude advantage of the running game 'one of the great myths of all time.'''

"It probably gives you a little advantage in Denver, but only psychologically. Physically, it doesn't,'' Moe said. The real advantage of the running game, Moe said, is that it allows teams to close the talent gap between them and their opponents. "You've got to do something if you're not as good as the other guys."