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‘Don’t Drink the Water’ Becomes ‘Don’t Breathe the Air’ for NFL Players in Mexico

The NFL warned the Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans of the dangers that await them as tourists in Mexico City. The league neglected to highlight the dangers that come from playing football in Mexico City.

“Azteca Stadium is the worst place to ever play a sporting event,” former U.S. men’s national soccer team player Eric Wynalda explained to USA Today. “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.”

Wynalda predicts, “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.”

Monday night’s game at Estadio Azteca marks the fourth regular-season game played outside of the U.S. this season and the second such contest, atop numerous preseason matchups, in Mexico in NFL history. In 2005, the first and last regular season game held in Mexico, the Cardinals and 49ers drew more than 100,000 to Estadio Azteca, which briefly stood as an NFL attendance record.

Mexico City sits two-thousand feet higher than Denver, whose elevation poses as a major obstacle for visiting franchises. Both Oakland and Houston play home games at not much higher than sea level. Mexico’s capital city also suffers from major pollution problems. The thin and dirty air figures to factor into the Monday Night Football matchup.

The cautionary phrase “Don’t drink the water” now expands to “don’t breathe the air.”

“There can be headaches, dizziness, sensation of fatigue, accelerated heartbeat, hyperventilation,” Mexican doctor Jorge Avendano Reyes told the newspaper. “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.”

An NFL memo warned players on the teams competing in Mexico City, “DO NOT leave the hotel.” At some point before halftime, gasping Raiders and Texans players may wish they took that message literally and stayed in their rooms.

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