Now that Christmas is in the rearview mirror and the New Year has taken hold, some folks are gearing up for the next highlight of winter: Superbowl LVIII. (Or “Superbowl 58” for anyone rusty on their Roman numerals.) 

The big game will be Sunday, February 11th. But first, we have the National Football League (NFL) post-season to enjoy. Playoffs are a particularly exciting time of the year for football fanatics and will undoubtedly be busy for online sports betting. 

Anyone planning to place a wager during the NFL post-season should look beyond player statistics and game-day rosters. Instead, consider the air quality where a particular game will be played and where a team usually plays. 

The big game, Superbowl LVIII, will be held in Las Vegas, which received an “F” grade in the most recent ‘State of the Air’ Report from the American Lung Association. Even though the stadium is indoors, outdoor air impacts indoor air quality by entering through draft ceilings and entrances.

That’s right, according to the latest research, you can bet on clean air to make a measurable impact on physical and cognitive performance in professional sports, this Superbowl and beyond.* 


Air Quality and Productivity 

A growing library of research demonstrates the impact of air quality on our bodily function – from the cardiovascular system to immunity. Chronic exposure to air pollution causes neuroinflammation or swelling of the brain tissue. The implications of this include an increase in strokes, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s diseases. 

Knowing this, researchers from different fields have started studying the impact of air pollution, such as ozone and airborne particulates, on cognitive function and worker productivity. The effect of bad indoor air quality on athletes isn’t just a concern for medical professionals or coaches. The implications for worker productivity are of interest to economists, too.

A study on the negative impact of bad air quality on professional football players was recently published in the journal Economics and Human Biology. This analysis of about 90,000 offensive NFL plays provides new evidence that air quality affects team productivity. Specifically – air pollution results in lower cognitive performance. 


Cognitive Performance in the NFL

Brad R. Humphreys and Jane E. Ruseski, economics professors from West Virginia University, explored team sports in their paper, “Air quality and employee performance in teams: Evidence from the NFL.” Researchers had an appetite for data about major league sports teams because the teams don’t have the flexibility to reschedule games over factors like air quality.1 Such a thing was practically unheard of in most parts of the country until the Canadian wildfires of 2023 impacted baseball. 

Professional athletes are also an excellent population to study because the highest level of competition demands the best in both physical and cognitive performance. Sports such as football require strategic thinking and teamwork, which echoes today’s workplace, where collaboration is required.

The researchers compared data from air quality monitoring stations close to NFL stadiums with the results from over 900 NFL games between 2008 and 2016, or about 90,000 offensive plays. They looked at the yards gained in each offensive play to assess cognitive performance. They determined that more yards were acquired with the increase of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), particularly on passing plays. In other words, defensive players are impacted by poor air quality more than the offense. 

They hypothesized that this is because of the different demands of the offense versus the defense. The coaching staff determines what plays the offense should run. In contrast, the defensive players must respond in real-time with split-second decisions that impact gameplay.

The main takeaway: poor air quality impacts reaction time. This new research on the impact of air quality on cognitive performance isn’t a fluke; it’s backed up by other recent research.


Cognitive Data from the MLB and NFL

Another study examining the link between air quality and the ability of professional athletes to focus was published in late 2022 by movement scientists (kinesiologists) from Louisiana State University and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, “Air Quality Is Predictive of Mistakes in Professional Baseball and American Football.”

The title provides the main takeaway: poor air quality increases professional errors.2

The study investigated the impact of air quality on athletic performance, focusing on Major League Baseball (MLB) and the NFL. The researchers assessed the relationship between air quality, measured by the air quality index (AQI), and these measurable performance indicators:

  1. The number of errors committed by MLB teams 
  2. Interceptions thrown by NFL quarterbacks
  3. Overall quarterback performance, as determined by total quarterback rating (QBR)

The findings revealed that lower air quality is associated with more errors committed by MLB teams, more interceptions thrown by NFL quarterbacks, and a decrease in overall quarterback performance. 

It’s more evidence that athletes in professional sports seem to experience impairments in both cognitive and physical abilities when competing in areas with poorer air quality. This also extends to the air quality of your favorite players’ home city.


Don’t Gamble on Your Brain Function

If moderate air pollution negatively impacts professionals at the top of their game, it undoubtedly impacts the general public’s daily decision-making and cognitive performance.

To quote the authors of the MLB/NFL study:

… fans within cities with professional sports teams may elect to take efforts to improve air quality in order to see their local sports teams gain a competitive advantage. Similarly, results may also be [applicable] to other populations who want to maintain physical and cognitive abilities for themselves or their children, and therefore, may also seek to improve the air they breathe within their counties and households.

As the research continues to prove, Indoor Air Quality (AIQ) and the Air Quality Index (AQI) are crucial to our everyday health and performance – in the arena, the workplace, and at home. This also extends to schools and should be of particular concern to parents of student-athletes. Austin Air is acutely aware of this which is why our air cleaners are in so many school athletic centers, classrooms, and NFL locker rooms.


Austin Air Athletes

Clean air is optimum for all people and athletes are aware it’s extra crucial for them. There is a whole crew of Austin Athletes who we are proud to partner with. 

They are professionals who know that athletes need oxygen to keep moving. It’s also critical for recovery after high-intensity workouts to build and maintain strong muscle. 

The reality is, we all start at a deficit when it comes to air quality. Even indoor air which has no obvious odor is still full of chemicals from everyday items such as furniture, cosmetics, and cleaning products. This makes portable air filtration a necessity for everyone.

These are just some of our Austin Air Athletes in the NFL and MLB:

  • Zack Moss – Running Back for the Indianapolis Colts
  • Jordan Poyer – Safety for the Buffalo Bills
  • Christian Kuntz – Long Snapper for the Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Levi Wallace – Cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Grady Jarrett – Defensive End for the Atlanta Falcons
  • Shaq Lawson – Defensive End for the Buffalo Bills
  • Griffin Jax – Pitcher for the Minnesota Twins

Whether they are hanging out or working out, good indoor air quality is a must. Austin Air is the only clinically proven air cleaner to help win against allergies, dust, cold/flu season, and good health.


* DISCLAIMER: This information on air quality and athletic performance (physical and cognitive) is in no way intended to serve as guidance for betting of any kind. Enjoy this food for thought; we hope it provokes conversation and consideration about important health issues. 

For example: something to also consider if trying to pick a winning team in advance is if an athlete’s exposure to air pollution is limited to game day (acute) or long-term (chronic)…

That said… don’t gamble with your health: get an Austin Air cleaner.



1 Humphreys BR, Ruseski JE. Air quality and employee performance in teams: Evidence from the NFL. Economics & Human Biology, Vol 51, 2023: 101310. DOI: 10.1016/j.ehb.2023.101310.

2 Heintz EC, Scott DP, Simms KR, Foreman JJ. Air Quality Is Predictive of Mistakes in Professional Baseball and American Football. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2023; 20(1):542. DOI: 10.3390/ijerph20010542