For the first time in NFL history on Monday, a regular season game will be played in Mexico City as the Oakland Raiders are hosting the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football at Azteca Stadium.
The game is a big one for both teams, as after a Kansas City Chiefs loss on Sunday the Raiders can take over sole possession of first place in the AFC West, and the Texans can maintain their two-game division lead over the Indianapolis Colts is the AFC South with a win.
While many are excited that an NFL game is being played in Mexico City, both teams will have challenges to face as Azteca Stadium sits at 7,280 feet above sea level, higher than Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High, which is the NFL’s most-elevated venue at 5,280 feet.
According to Martin Rogers of USA Today, American soccer player Eric Wynalda, who has played at Azteca Stadium before, is not too fond of the stadium, especially for an NFL game:
“Azteca Stadium is the worst place to ever play a sporting event,” former United States national team soccer star Eric Wynalda told USA TODAY Sports.
“You can’t breathe. The pollution is so bad that if you don’t have some form of rain that’s brought all that down you are going to be sucking wind. They (will) break a record for how many oxygen masks they have on the sidelines. The combination of being that high up with pollution is just devastating to the body.”
Local sports medicine and respiration doctor Jorge Avendano Reyes outlined what the Raiders and Texans players may be in for on Monday night:
“There can be headaches, dizziness, sensation of fatigue, accelerated heartbeat, hyperventilation,” Reyes said. “We can also have respiratory symptoms, when we are exposed often to the pollution.
“The amount of oxygen that reaches the cells decreases, leading to the faster heartbeat and cardiac activity. The body tries to ventilate more quickly.”
While the conditions are not exactly ideal, they will exist for both teams so it will not be an advantage or disadvantage for either team.
The Raiders have not played in Denver yet this season, as they close out their season there on Jan. 1. Houston, who is not in the same division as the Broncos, did play in Denver earlier this season in Week 7 as they were defeated by the Broncos 27-9.