Effect of Commercial Airline Travel on Oxygen Saturation in Athletes

Research image

A prospective cross-sectional study. National-level athletes were recruited. Oxygen saturation and heart rate were measured with a pulse oximeter at sea level before departure, at 3 and 7 hours into the flight, and again after arrival at sea level. Aircraft cabin pressure and altitude, cabin fraction of inspired oxygen and true altitude were also recorded.

45 athletes and 18 healthy staff aged between 17 and 70 years were studied on 10 long-haul flights. Oxygen saturation levels declined significantly after 3 hours and 7 hours (3–4%), compared with sea level values. There was an associated drop in cabin pressure and fraction of inspired oxygen, and an increase in cabin altitude.

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