Live high-train low altitude exposure simulated with hypoxic devices may improve athletic performance. In this study, intermittent normobaric hypoxia was achieved with the GO2altitude® hypoxicator to determine its effects on sea-level performance in rugby players. Ten players were randomly assigned to two groups. Players in each group received 14 sessions of either hypoxic (10-15% O2) or normoxic (21% O2) exposure at rest over 14 consecutive days in a single-blind fashion. Each session consisted of six 6-min intervals of hypoxic exposure interspersed with six 4-min recovery periods of room air. Various performance measures were obtained consecutively in a single testing session pre- and post-exposure. Effects of hypoxic exposure on maximum speed and sprint times were trivial (<1.0%) but unclear (90% likely range ±5% to ±9%). In the rugby simulation, hypoxic exposure produced impairments of peak power in two scrums (15%, ±8%; 9%, ±7%) and impairments of time in offensive sprints (7%, ±8%) and tackle sprints (11%, ±9%). Three other types of sprint (20-m, 30-m and defensive) in the simulation showed impairments (1.6% to 3.5%), but these were unclear (±4.5% to ±7.0%). The effect on ball-passing accuracy was also unclear (2%, ±19%). Pending further research, rugby players would be unwise to use normobaric intermittent hypoxic exposure to prepare for games at sea level.
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