Having won a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos in his rookie year, former Tulane and current Carolina Panthers cornerback Lorenzo Doss understands the importance of altitude training.
He says players from every team Denver faced complained about how hard it was to breathe in Mile High Stadium, while the Broncos, used to practicing in that oxygen-thin environment, remained fresh into the fourth quarter.
That is why Doss, a New Orleans native who played for the Green Wave from 2012 to 2014 and is third on the school’s all-time interceptions list with 15, was on hand Thursday for Tulane’s official unveiling of an altitude chamber whose designer, Altitude International, labeled the first one of its kind on a college campus.
“Training in Denver the whole offseason, when we’d go and play an away game, we’d feel better,” Doss said. “We’d be in better shape than our opponents.”
Tulane’s chamber, which opened two months ago in the Hertz Center weight room right next to the basketball practice courts, simulates altitudes from 8,000 to 10,500 feet — nearly two miles high — for hypoxic (low-oxygen) training. The glass-enclosed area has a pair of treadmills and several elliptical machines in a controlled environment created specifically for the basketball team but one that all Tulane athletes can use.
The project was funded by a donation from Avron B. and Wendy Fogelman in 2018.
“Our goal here is we need to find an edge,” Tulane athletic director Troy Dannen said. “What is our edge over somebody else competitively, academically and from a training standpoint? This is the advantage we will have over other schools in the AAC. It makes a lot of sense.”
Among the advantages the chamber’s creator, Altitude International, tout include reduced time spent training, significant fitness gains, fewer fatigue-related injuries and the ability for injured athletes to maintain fitness level at nearly 100 percent. Pro Football Hall of Fame reporter Lesley Visser and her husband, Bob Kanuth, started the company.
Altitude International chief operating officer JB Frost, the chamber’s designer, said altitude chambers had been used for decades in Europe and Australia but never in the United States. He expects a rapid transformation.
“Tulane is going to be on the tip of the spear,” he said. “We’re talking to many other teams right now professionally and collegiate, and you’re going to see the results of chambers throughout the U.S. and it’s going to catch on. When you put an athlete on a treadmill in the chamber, not only are they getting the stress of the treadmill itself, but they are getting the physiological stress of altitude. That altitude of 7,500, 8,000 feet and above is what’s going to change their body.”
Tulane men’s basketball strength and conditioning coordinator Dan Rickaby cited the potential for playing four conference tournament games in four days and the benefit the altitude chamber would provide for withstanding that challenge.
“We’ll do something like six-second sprints and 30 seconds off 10 times, just trying to get that red blood cell starving for oxygen,” he said. “And then all the adaptation takes place. After a couple of times of doing that, you feel the difference.”
Dannen pointed out Tulane was the perfect place to be a forerunner in altitude training. Until getting its chamber, the only way for the Wave to work out more than a few feet above sea level in New Orleans would have been to go to Monkey Hill at the Audubon Zoo.
“I don’t know of any other institutions in the country at the Division I level that are operating at an altitude of 2 feet,” he said. “There’s probably more opportunity here than any place else.”
**This story has been updated to correct an earlier version that stated Tulane's altitude chamber was the first of its kind anywhere in the United States. Hypoxico, a competing company to Altitude International, says it has installed more than 100 nationwide and has worked with colleges in that area.