Sunday’s game between the Rams and Broncos creates several challenges for the young Rams. First, the Broncos young Head Coach in Josh McDaniel brings the Bill Bilichick blue print to the Bronco nation. Secondly, there are physiological issues of playing in high altitude. Third, is the physical part of playing in thinner or less oxygen.
Josh McDaniels, the Broncos young head coach, is young by age only. He completed his apprenticeship under Bill Belichick. He has an offensive mind, is well qualified (having developing quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Matt Cassel. He was taught the art of strategic war fare on the football field when it comes to game planning. Like Coach Belichick, he will find the weakness in your formula, your team personnel, and will exploit it with a well-designed weekly blue print. He struggled to handle success early, and now deals with a losing record with six games remaining in the 2010 season.
I lived in Denver, Colorado ’95-’97 while working as an Area Scout for the Carolina Panthers. From August through December, I averaged nine days a month at home and never adjusted to the altitude until the off season. During my weekend visits home to spend time with the family, I suffered from shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat and the occasional bloody nose.
People generally feel or experience two different effects when visiting a city like Denver that sets 5,280 feet or a mile high above sea level. Athletes typically send their minds and bodies through two different types of effects prior to competing at the high-altitude venues. The first is physiological, determined by the body’s reaction to a thin, less-oxygenated atmosphere.
Scientists generally classify elevations of 6,500 ft (2,000 m) as high altitude because of the pronounced difference in oxygen content. Per one of my Collegiate Athletic Trainer sources, “The human body has a built-in mechanism to counter the effects of low oxygen. When the body senses that it is not receiving its accustomed level of oxygen, it determines that it must produce a greater number of erythrocytes (red blood cells), which carry oxygen to the bloodstream. The increase of transportation capability means that the body will be optimizing the amount of available oxygen. Air contains 20.9% oxygen, 0.03% carbon dioxide and 79.04% nitrogen, as elevation increases, oxygen has a progressively lower partial pressure. The more air that is above that point, the greater the barometric pressure will be, the same as in depths of water, the deeper you go the greater the pressure.”
The Rams will travel to Denver twenty-four hours before their contest, and won’t stay long enough to become acclimated; the human body can adapt, but doesn’t get an accustomed to the thin air within 7-10 days of exposure to the conditions. Because the game of football is played within twenty yards spurts or less, the short effects should be minimal.
It is likely the Broncos have a definite home field advantage, and not because of the crowd, but the altitude. Several American Olympic athletes develop their skills and train in Colorado Springs, an hour south of Denver. The elevation can take a toll on football players who carry an extra thirty pounds of gear (helmet, shoulder pads, thigh boards, knee pads and cleats). Denver also has marginal to poor air quality and generally has low humidity, this makes it difficult in staying hydrated, and football players tend to dehydrate faster. The city that sets a mile high above sea level is a tough place to WIN.