Medical Oxygen for Sports and Athletic Training

Air Source Industries offers premium medical grade oxygen to the greater Los Angeles and Orange County areas. Our medical oxygen is used by clinics, dental offices, veterinarians, laboratories, and more. One industry you may not expect to see medical oxygen is in competitive sports programs.  With spring in full swing and the recent competitive March Madness wrapping up, let’s dive into how medical oxygen is used in sports and training to support high performing athletes.


Medical Oxygen in Competitive Sports

When you watch sports, you may notice support staff alongside the team benches offering oxygen to players when they are at high altitude venues.

We saw medical grade oxygen available at the recent March Madness games in Salt Lake City, Utah. The college basketball teams had the sports oxygen available on the sidelines if players needed to use it to catch their breath. Having supplemental oxygen available at sports games allows athletes to breathe easier when they haven’t adjusted to the elevation.

The reason it’s more difficult to breathe at high altitudes is because oxygen molecules are further apart (less dense). There is still the same amount of oxygen in the air, which means with each breath someone takes at high elevation, they are getting less oxygen in each breath.

Common symptoms of short-term altitude sickness may include people experiencing lightheadedness, dizziness, shortness of breath, and trouble sleeping. These symptoms may go away or be reduced after a day or two as the person acclimates to the altitude. Coaches will often bring their teams to high altitude locations early in the week before a big competition to get adjusted. Other coaches believe they should fly their team in, compete, and then get out of these quickly before players fatigue sets in adjusting to the elevation.


Performance Advantage?

Athletes using medical oxygen on the sideline have a chance to catch their breath but do not gain a competitive advantage. Hemoglobin carries oxygen through a person’s body and it’s not possible for hemoglobin to be more than 100% saturated with oxygen. After an athlete discontinues breathing the pure oxygen on the sidelines and returns to play, the positive effects of breathing pure oxygen also end.


Oxygen in Sports Training

Oxygen tents are a way for athletes to acclimate to the high altitude conditions without traveling there. However, in order to see an impact on your training, you’ll have to spend about 20-22 hours a day and 5 days a week in the tent. To see a benefit from increased red blood cell count, you would have to live at high altitude and then compete at sea level.

Oxygen tents would be beneficial for someone who’s extremely dedicated to their training, but at that point, it may be more efficient moving to a high altitude location and living there instead of investing in a tent and spending the majority of the day inside it. Some athletes has said they had success using the oxygen tents over a longer month+ period.

Altitude Masks reduce the amount of oxygen you breathe in while you’re training. Essentially, the mask itself doesn’t change the pressure of the air you’re breathing in; it just reduces the amount of air you’re breathing. This doesn’t replicate the oxygen intake you’d experience at high altitudes.

Oxygen in higher altitudes has the same amount of oxygen molecules as the air at sea level, but since the air is thinner at high altitudes, you’re breathing in fewer oxygen molecules. With the mask, you’re just breathing in less air and not replicating a high altitude environment. What ends up happening is your respiratory system works harder, which in turn may help you breathe better.

The effectiveness of altitude masks is still being actively researched. There hasn’t been a lot of research on altitude masks effectiveness that can be generalized to athletes as a whole. Some athletes informally share they had a more productive workout when using the masks; this may or may not be a placebo effect. A 2016 study concluded an elevation training mask “…does not simulate altitude, but works more like an [sic] respiratory training device” and “has been suggested to increase aerobic capacity (VO2max), endurance performance, and lung function.”

High Altitude Training is often touted as the go-to strategy for athletes trying to reach the next level before a big competition. You’ve probably heard the mantra “live high, train low.” Athletes will train heavily for a few weeks at a high elevation sports camp. Their bodies will adapt to the lower concentration of oxygen as they train for their sport. After completing their training, the athlete will return to a lower altitude to professionally compete with a stronger vascular system.



Altitude plays a huge role in athletic performance. Although altitude masks & oxygen tents may not be as effective as one might think for training, medical oxygen itself does help athletes catch their breath when training or competing at high elevations without giving them an advantage over other athletes.

When you need high-quality medical oxygen, Air Source Industries is the right choice for your needs. We offer convenient delivery to Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Contact our gas applications experts at 877-586-9611 or get a gas quote online.