Simulated rugby performance at 1550-m altitude following adaptation to intermittent normobaric hypoxia

J Sci Med Sport. 2008 Nov;11(6):593-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2007.07.005. Epub 2007 Aug 24.


Team-sport athletes who normally reside at sea level occasionally play games at altitudes sufficient to impair endurance performance. To investigate the effect of intermittent normobaric hypoxic exposure on performance in generic and game-specific tests at altitude, 22 senior club level rugby players performed baseline tests before single-blind random assignment to one of three groups: hypoxia-altitude (n=9), normoxia-altitude (n=6), and normoxia-sea level (n=7). The hypoxia-altitude group underwent 9-13 sessions of intermittent hypoxic exposure (concentration of inspired oxygen=13-10%) over 15 days, then repeated the performance tests within 12h of travelling to 1550m. The normoxia-altitude group underwent placebo exposures by breathing room air before repeating the tests at altitude, whereas the normoxia-sea level group underwent placebo exposures before repeating the tests at sea level. Hypoxic exposure consisted of alternately breathing 6min hypoxic gas and 4min ambient air for 1h at rest. Performance measures gathered at each testing session were maximum speed, sub-maximum heart-rate speed and sub-maximum lactate speed during a 20-m incremental running test, mean time in six 70-m sprints, repetitive explosive power and other measures from seven 5.5-min circuits of a rugby simulation. Repetitive explosive power ( approximately -16%) and 20-m shuttle performance ( approximately -3%) decreased substantially at altitude compared to sea level. Acclimatisation to hypoxia had a beneficial effect on sub-maximum heart rate and lactate speed but little effect on other performance measures. In conclusion, 1550-m altitude substantially impaired some measures of performance and the effects of prior adaptation via 9-13 sessions of intermittent hypoxia were mostly unclear.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / physiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Altitude*
  • Attitude
  • Football*
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / prevention & control*
  • Physical Endurance
  • Young Adult