Footballers from high altitude countries have a significant edge over their counterparts from the lowlands, says a new research.
The research, by Patrick McSharry at the University of Oxford, was prompted by the ban of football's governing body, the Federation of International Football Associations or FIFA on international matches being played at more than 2500 m above sea level.
As a part of his research McSharry analysed the scores and results of 1,460 international football matches played at different altitudes in 10 countries in South America over the course of a century.
In his study, he used four variables to calculate the effect of altitude and to control for differences in a team's ability such as the probability of a win, goals scored and conceded, and altitude difference between home and away team venues.
Based on the results he found that altitude can make a huge difference on an athlete's performance, reports the BMJ.
McSharry found that teams originating from high altitude areas score more and concede fewer goals as altitude increases.
This he stated, was because teams from the lowlands find it harder to become acclimatised to the lack of oxygen in high altitude, leading to a reduced physiological performance.
Lack of oxygen or hypoxia, cold and dehydration at high altitudes is already known to cause breathlessness, headaches, nausea, dizziness and fatigue, and possibly altitude sickness.
Sports such as football or other activities can lead to a worsening of these symptoms, preventing players from performing at full capacity.
Another surprising discovery that McSharry made was that even when they play in low lying areas, highland teams tend to do better as they get acclimatised to the conditions much faster.