What’s The Truth About The Altitude Effect?November 30th, 2012
Tomorrow the Bucs will fly to Denver’s Mile High Stadium — or whatever name is slapped on it these days – and will play Sunday in the famed suffocating altitude that’s been known to consume those that aren’t physically or mentally prepared.
But Greg Schiano isn’t concerned about such things.
In fact, the leader of the New Schiano Order said today that the level of oxygen in the Colorado air will not fatigue any Buccaneers quicker than usual as long as they’ve loaded up on water.
“I’ll bring it up [to players] because the facts [about altitude adjustment] are actually favorable. We get in and we get out and, you know, you’re fine. As long as you hydrate, you’re fine,” Schiano said. “Now if you’re going to spend an extended period of time there, and your body then gets acclimated, there’s a whole medical thing that occurs then, that’s a different story. Hydration is the key, though.”
Joe never heard of such a thing, and Joe heard Gerald McCoy talk earlier this week on the Buccaneers Radio Network about how Colorado altitude affected him in college.
“My first time being up there and playing a game, you know, when I got off the bus I was struggling,” McCoy said of a college game in Colorado. “So [against the Broncos], definitley out of all the games we’ve played up to this point, our rotation has to be key. You can’t try to be Superman in this game. … If you’re tired, come out.”
Joe also heard Brian Billick on radio this week talking about how he counseled players not to freak out when they got tired in Denver pregame warmups. Joe also talked to former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson, who played all his college home games at altitude, and Carlson said he’d seen guys affected by it and also heard all kinds of altitude guidance from coaches, none of which seemed to be worthwhile.
So what’s the reality in all this?
Joe turned to renowned altitude guru Dr. Robert Roach, director of the Altitude Research Center at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. He’s a big shot in the field of high altitude medicine and physiology, and exercise performance.
Roach said Schiano is on the money when it comes to hydration. The dry air in Denver, especially versus Tampa, is the issue. The human body is designed to fully humidify the air we breathe by the time it reaches our lungs, Roach explained, so to do that at Mile High players need to suck that water out of their circulation. If it’s not replaced with enough oral fluids, dehydration will happen.
But Roach referenced one issue that Schiano likely can’t prepare for — bad sleep.
Roach said the No. 1 complaint of people coming to Denver altitude is disturbed sleep caused by a chemical shift in the brain that is struggling to adjust to the low oxygen level.
Of course, a lousy night sleep can lead to fatigue.
Roach also referenced that the mere “idea” of visitors concerned about altitude can play to the Broncos’ benefit. And Bucs icon John Lynch, a former Broncos Pro Bowler, said on WDAE-AM 620 this week that signs all over Mile High stadium referencing the altitude are there to get in the heads of visitors.
McCoy said the Bucs’ mentality is critical.
“I mean if you go in there expecting not to be able to breathe, you might not be able to breathe,” McCoy said. “But if you go in there with the right mindset, and have the mindset of ‘I don’t care what the altitude is like,’ then it’s not going to play a factor in whether I execute an assignment to the best of my abilities, or whether I read my keys.”
Regardless of whether the effects of altitude are real or imagined, or somewhere in between, Joe’s confident at least some of the Bucs will be affected. That’s an advantage for the Broncos.