Home-field advantage means many things in the NFL. Sometimes, fans’ enthusiasm gives an extra boost to a squad as they eke out a victory. Other times, the field itself instills a sense of comfort for the home team. For the Denver Broncos, home-field advantage has to do with elevation. The high altitude puts players to the test. With a new sign in the visiting locker room, the team is trying to stretch this advantage further.
Mile-high altitude sickness
Anyone who’s hiked a mountain knows that that thin air is a chore to breathe through. Sports leagues are filled with high-tier athletes. But even they struggle for breath when not prepared for Denver’s altitude. A 2018 study, reported by Forbes, showed that the Nuggets have one of the best home-field advantages in the NBA because of the altitude.
The Nuggets have always performed historically well at home. From their dominant years like 2019 to mediocre years in the cellar, Denver’s home-field advantage was different than other teams. Mathematically speaking, the group performs better than most other NBA teams compared to its talent level due to this element.
In football, the game doesn’t move as fast. Even so, the Broncos embrace the science behind this and add a bit of psychological warfare to the mix.
Watching the signs
Outside of the visitor’s locker room at Empower Field at Mile High, there’s a sign that reads 5,280 feet. This sign reminds opponents that they competing at 5,280 feet or higher in elevation; something as simple as breathing can be difficult. Director of Endurance Sports at the Fast Lab, Kathy Zawadski, said why this is the case.
“The partial pressure of oxygen in the air is less, which means that there is less oxygen in the blood for your muscles to use and heart and lungs to use,” Zawadski told The Denver Channel. “They’ll have a higher heart rate for the same amount of work at sea level, respiration — or how frequently they’re breathing — is increased, and ability to recover from a higher intensity exercise is compromised.”
This sign brings this dynamic to the front of the players’ minds. But it also makes some realize the air’s thinness. Athletes, coaches, and sports scientists have confirmed the home advantage in Denver is genuine. The Broncos have had a mixed bag when it comes to recent season records. But their home winning percentage is the eighth-best in the NFL. The same goes for the Rockies in baseball.
Will it actually help the Denver Broncos?
Outliers still exist when it comes to these studies. Part of the reason the Broncos have an excellent winning record at home is that there were several Super Bowl contenders on that field. The same goes for the Denver Nuggets. However, with every Denver team performing far better at home than on the road at an above-average rate, science supports this sign, reports Stack.
Whether or not the sign helps or not, it likely affects different players in peculiar ways, If nothing else, however, it serves as a reminder that the next few hours in Denver will be unlike any other stadium in the country.