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(DENVER, COLORADO) After Avalanche’s 7-0 at Lightning in Game 2 of the Finals, the issue of altitude was raised by various observers as an explanation.

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Guillaume Lefrancois

Guillaume Lefrancois
The print

After all, it seemed abnormal for a good hockey machine like the Lightning to be so amorphous. Those questions seemed even more legitimate after Lightning’s resounding Game 3 win at home.

Looking back at the first four games, we now see that we have to take it and leave it, that the altitude is only one of the sources of explanation, but not the only one, far from it. The right to last change is obviously of fundamental importance.

Jon Cooper’s men got their tongues on the ground again in the second half of the game on Wednesday. However, the meeting took place in Tampa, where it can be said that the highest passes are the flyovers that cross the highways.

That said, altitude remains an interesting element to analyze. If only to add some scientific knowledge to our sports pages, we interviewed a specialist in things to better understand the human body: Dr.r Todd Bull, professor of medicine and lung sciences at the University of Denver School of Medicine.


The Dr Todd Bull, professor of medicine and lung sciences at the University of Denver School of Medicine

The print : What is the principle behind the difficulty of practicing a sport at high altitude?

The Dr Todd Bull : Many of your readers have probably noticed that their exercise capacity decreases at higher altitudes, even in places like Denver, which we consider to be at moderate altitudes. These people must have felt out of breath. It is the result of the change in atmospheric pressure. No matter where you are, the percentage of oxygen in the air is always the same, at 21%. But the number of oxygen molecules we breathe decreases as we rise in altitude, because the pressure decreases. With each breath, we absorb fewer oxygen molecules. And there is less pressure to push that oxygen into the body, into the tissues. So even though there is so much oxygen in the air, people breathe less of it. It is a real phenomenon. People who like jogging notice this.

Lightning and Avalanche players just spent a few days in Tampa. Do Avalanche players maintain a long-term advantage because they play and train at altitude all year round?

There are several acclimatization factors affecting multiple organs, and these variations are not fully understood. What we have known for some time is that training at high altitude gives an advantage. This is why many runners move to Colorado for their workouts. In Denver, on the other hand, we’re at a moderate altitude, so it’s not even like Bolivia, for example. Since Avalanche players play and train at altitude most of the time, they have a certain advantage. But each player also has the individual characteristics of him. Except that all other things being equal, if we take exactly the same person, the one who trains at altitude would have an advantage.

Do the effects of altitude change with the seasons or whether an activity is indoors or outdoors?

No, unless you are in a pressurized chamber, it’s the same thing. Moisture can still have an effect, but it remains negligible.

Denver is one of the few cities with teams in all five major professional sports. In which sports are athletes most likely to experience the effects of altitude?

The real answer is long-distance running. But hockey would be very high on the list because it is a bursting sport where players switch from aerobic to anaerobic exertion. The heart must constantly supply oxygen. Football would therefore also be very high. Baseball would be at the bottom of the list because it is fast action and the player therefore has plenty of time to bounce back.


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