Heights of World Cup final give footballers extra challenge: research

12:14, July 10, 2010      

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Footballers playing in the World Cup final could see their exercise capacity reduced by five percent because of the effects of altitude, researchers at the University of Edinburgh suggested in a report released on Friday.

The research said that, as the final takes place at 1,753 metres above sea level at the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, the players will have to adapt to oxygen levels in the atmosphere almost 20 percent less than at sea level.

Although the stadium is not high enough to cause altitude sickness, both teams would also have had little time to acclimatize at the higher altitude, having won the semi finals at sea level, with Spain winning at Durban and Netherlands winning at Cape Town.

Dr Andrew Bretherick, who collated data from existing studies, said "While these footballers are incredibly fit nobody knows quite why some people are affected more by altitude than others. There is 18 percent less oxygen in every breath in Johannesburg than there is in London. The footballers could even be more affected than less sporty people because when they play their lungs are already working at capacity, so the reduced oxygen levels could have more of an effect."

Researchers looked at studies comparing the rate of oxygen consumption of trained athletes at different altitude levels. They then cross referenced these findings to altitude levels of football stadiums being used in the World Cup in South Africa -- of which the ones in Johannesburg are the highest.

The effects of altitude have been blamed as why some players may have not been on their top form during the tournament.

The aim of the study is to raise awareness of the effects of high altitude. Altitude sickness can occur from 2,400 metres and lead to potentially fatal conditions, such as high altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPE), which causes fluid to build up on the lungs.

Source: Xinhua


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