Bohner, J. D., Hoffman, J. R., McCormack, W. P., Scanlon, T. C., Townsend, J. R., Jajtner, A. R., Fukuda, D. J., Fragala, M S., & Stout, J. R. (2014). The effect of altitude on game performance in collegiate soccer players. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 46(5), Supplement abstract number 238.

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This study examined the effect of altitude on game performance measures. NCAA Division I female soccer players (N = 6) were retrospectively examined. Comparisons were made between two competitions that were played at sea-level within two weeks of a game played at a moderate altitude (1,839 m) on game characteristics including high-intensity running, total distance covered, and rest/recovery. Analysis was performed on the players who met a threshold of playing 60 or more minutes in each game. A 10-Hz global positioning system was used to measure distance and velocity. The rate of distance covered during the game, rate of high-intensity running, and the total time as well as percentage of time at rest and recovery during competition were evaluated. The two games at sea-level were averaged to establish a baseline performance and the mean results were compared with the single game played at altitude. No control group was used.

Minutes played were significantly different between the games at sea-level and altitude. No other significant differences occurred. Looking at the magnitude of each variable for both experiences the following seemed reasonable: i) the relative distance covered during the game at altitude was most likely lower than at sea-level; ii) the amount of time intensely running was likely greater at sea-level compared to altitude; and iii) athletes competing at altitude were most likely or likely to spend more time at rest or at a low activity level compared to games performed at sea-level.

Implication. Although this study did not use a control group, soccer performance at a moderate altitude appears to reduce the relative distance run, the distance of high-intensity running, and results in a greater need of recovery time during the game.

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