Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Playing football at altitude: analysis of the FIFA 2010 World Cup data

Johannesburg, a host city for the 2010 World Cup,
located at an altitude of 1753m (photo from

As you may know altitude affects exercise performance in a negative way. Actually, the reduction in oxygen partial pressure in the atmospheric air, as a result of altitude ascent, reduces oxygen availability to the working muscles and finally reduces athletic performance. Most of the results refer to laboratory studies and very little information exists in football.

The negative effect of altitude is observed in endurance events. Sprint performance seems to be better at altitude and this is due to the reduced air density. The reduced air density at altitude might also affect, at some degree, flying objects characteristics. In football, this means that altitude might affect flying ball characteristics and thus the result.

The aim of the study attached below was to examine the effect of altitude on football performance using match analysis data from 2010 World Cup. Let me remind you that the FIFA 2010 World Cup was staged in South Africa from June 11th to July 11th, 2010 and matches were played at cities of varying altitudes (0-1753m).

If you want to learn more about the study and the findings please connect to the official site at

Some references for further study are also shown below.
Hope you enjoy the reading.


  • Bartsch et al. Consensus statement on playing football at different altitude. Scand J Med Sci Sports 18: 96-99, 2008.
  • Gore et al. Preparation for football competition at moderate to high altitude. Scand J Med Sci Sports 18: 85-95, 2008.
  • Gore et al. Reduced performance of male and female athletes at 580m altitude. Eur J Appl Physiol 75: 136-43, 1997.
  • Hamlin et al. Simulated rugby performance at 1550-m altitude following adaptation to intermittent normobaric hypoxia. J Sci Med Sport 11: 593-599, 2008.
  • Levine et al. Effect of altitude on football performance. Scand J Med Sci Sports 18: 76-84, 2008.
  • McSharry PE. Altitude and athletic performance: statistical analysis using football results. BMJ 335: 1278-1281, 2007.
  • Perronet et al. Theoretical analysis of the effect of altitude on running performance. J Appl Physiol 70: 339-404, 1991.
  • Wehrlin et al. Linear decrease in VO2max and performance with increasing altitude in endurance athletes. Eur J Appl Physiol 96: 404-412, 2006.

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