Rockies Ride 6-Month Elevation Roller Coaster
Let’s discuss research of how travel affects the performance of the Major League Baseball player. Specifically, this article will discuss a lack of research in one area, elevation and the Colorado Rockies health. First I think it is worth our time to look at what is being researched.
Just as Major League Baseball players are talking about not being able to perform up to their capabilities because they suffer from jet lag, we can’t go a day without reading about the World Baseball Classic. Isn’t this series really just a way for MLB to ease everyone into accepting the idea of a true World Series once they establish international franchises?
Recently there have been athletes in multiple sports talking about long-distance travel and the toll it takes on their performance. At the same time executives in those sports are talking about adding international teams or at minimum playing games internationally.
The health issues related to travel is not a new topic. After some recent complaints from Major League players we began to hear about a 20-year study that some individuals have done primarily using information from… wait for it.
Major League Baseball Players. What? Twenty years of data?
Here’s a link to the study: http://www.pnas.org/content/114/6/1407
The study included a “multivariate linear regression analysis” of information gathered from 46,535 baseball games over 20 seasons. The theory is long distance travel messes up people’s circadian clock.
Twenty years for that?
Some of their “findings” are traveling west to east is more of an issue than going east to west. The east coast team that just traveled home has a tougher time re-adjusting. More double-plays hit into and fewer stolen bases by their position players, more homers allowed by their pitchers.
I admit to simply reading the abstract of the article but I wonder if they have considered that the team playing at home might have a lead after 8 1/2 innings. As home team they win that game without batting in the ninth inning, but they will have to pitch the ninth inning.
What should be studied is what I think is a much larger issue than the cross-country travel. That is the Rockies playing home games at elevation almost 5 times higher than any other stadium in the league. It’s a mile above sea level and that affects your oxygen, blood, heart, stamina, etc.
Elevation has its own effects on the human body. So much so that in the athletic world there are techniques of training like “live high – train high”,” live high – train low”, “live low – train high”, each coming with benefits and difficulties.
Training at elevation might do certain things to an athlete’s system to increase red blood cells. This improves the amount of oxygen going to the muscles, but more red blood cells might thicken the blood, slowing down blood flow.
Major league players do have a difficult in-season schedule for 6 months, playing 162 games and rarely getting a day off. In 2017 the Rockies for instance have 91 games before the All-Star break, 44 at home and 47 on the road. They might be at home or on the road for 6 to 10 days at a time and during that 91 game stretch they will have just 7 days off. Most of us don’t do that.
I count 21 flights for the Rockies in those 98 days. I’m not a doctor and have not researched elevation, but to me our studies should be more on how 6 to 10 days of competition at elevation a mile above sea level followed by the same amount of time at sea level affects a body. The chances of the Rockies suffering long-term effects going from elevation to sea level and back for 6 months is probably greater than travelling west to east let’s say.
For the Rockies, they spend 10 days with more oxygen then 10 days with less oxygen. Back and forth, never really getting acclimated to the elements wherever they are playing. Opponents come in for 3 days then go back to sea level.
Runners who train at elevation all react differently, taking anywhere from 7 to 28 days to see much in the way of lasting effects in regards to their running ability but there is a reason the best runners in the world train in that environment.
Now a major league pitcher might go watch his team play the Rockies in a three game series, not play, and leave town better off than when he got there simply because of the increased cell activity the environment provides.
The problem is pitchers that get to Denver on Tuesday and pitch Tuesday night, not training but competing. How do those visiting pitchers perform three or four starts after that start in Colorado? Runners who train too hard, too quickly at elevation can do enough damage that they miss an entire running season.
We’re expecting a pitcher to come in to town and use max effort for 100 pitches then leave town and do it again at sea level 5 days later.
He may even pitch better at sea level after that Colorado trip but does he decline the next outing and the next one after that until his body adjusts back to being at sea level? There is no default button with the human body and there must be accumulating negative effects on the Rockies players.
Elevation to sea level and back again, the heat of the south, humidity of the Midwest, cool temperatures up north early and late in the season, all places have their issues. If all this is a real problem there probably isn’t a real need to consider expanding major league baseball into more countries. The thought of international travel effects is more than we could handle.
When you factor in the physical training involved to be able to handle that schedule, arriving at the ball park several hours before game-time, considerations of family needs and the time spent away from that family, it really must be a challenge to be a major league baseball player. Most people couldn’t do it.
The college season is tough enough, for some trying to cram 55 games into an 80 day window. In the Midwest you get to deal with a 4 inch icycle on your water cooler during the first game of a college double-header, and that’s with the sun shining:
We all have our issues to deal with. As far as research and the jet lag thing I’m not a doctor and I don’t have a bunch of letters like MD or PhD behind my name but I’m pretty sure the pineal gland is the key to it all.
Who’s ready for some Major League Baseball?
By Scott Hortness February 12, 2017
Stadium photo by Max and Dee Bernt https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/
Runners photo by Tim Hipps https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/
roller coaster photo by Paul L Dineen https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/
World Baseball Classic photo by kennejima https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/