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Could Being a Sports Fan be Hazardous to Your Health?


Are you a die-hard sports fan? If you spend hours watching sporting events on television, spend hundreds of dollars investing in season tickets, or have no problem missing your 10-year wedding anniversary date due to a tournament game, then I think you might just be. But for you extremely avid sports enthusiasts, there might actually be a health risk in rooting your favorite team on to victory – including heart attack! Keep reading to learn more about this unbelievable phenomenon.

Are you a die-hard sports fan? Um, OK – let’s test that. If you spend hours watching sporting events on television, spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars investing in season tickets, or have no problem missing your 10-year wedding anniversary date due to a tournament game, then I think you might just be.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that – I myself can really get into a good game. In fact my husband has purchased prime season ticket seats for the 2010 Minnesota Twins season (when the new stadium will be ready, for those of you not from MN!) and I have no problem with that whatsoever – I like cheering on my Twinkies.

But for you extremely avid sports enthusiasts, there might actually be a health risk in rooting your favorite team on to victory.

A recent report reveals that heart attacks and other emergencies doubled in Munich, Germany, when that nation’s soccer team played in the World Cup matches. The report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, blames emotional stress for the heart problems, but also notes that lack of sleep, overeating, indulging in junk food, drinking alcohol and smoking might have played a role as well.

The Study
The study included heart attacks, cardiac arrests, episodes of irregular heartbeat and activations of automatic implanted defibrillators. The researchers noted the number of such cases in the greater Munich area during the World Cup games in Germany during the summer of 2006. They compared the heart-related instances to totals for similar periods in 2003 and 2005, and for many weeks before and after the tournament.

The research followed 4,279 patients and discovered that on the days the German team played the overall number of cardiac emergencies more than doubled the norm. For men, it actually tripled. The researchers found that the effect was strongest in people who were aware that they suffered from some sort of heart disease.

Psychologist Douglas Carroll of the University of Birmingham in England reported a link between World Cup soccer and heart attacks in England in 2002. Carroll says this recent study confirms “something people have been highly skeptical about . . . that soccer would produce that kind of emotional investment that might trigger a heart attack.” He goes on to say that “people who are not interested in sports find it very difficult to comprehend this.”

While not all doctors and scientists are convinced of this phenomenon, it might be a valid concern for those sports fans that have a pre-existing heart condition. If you fall under the “die-hard fan” category, make sure you take care of yourself before a big game or tournament. Dr. Lori Mosca, director of preventative cardiology at New York Presbyterian Hospital suggests the following:

  • Take medications as prescribed
  • Avoid tobacco smoke and fatty meals
  • Get plenty of sleep the night before
  • Don’t over-exert yourself physically
  • Limit your alcohol consumption
  • Try not to get to upset with the officials

Also, if you experience any symptoms such as chest pain or upper abdominal pain, don’t put off going to the doctor! More often than not you might be suffering from potato chip-and-beer-induced indigestion, but you never know. Seeing the final score is not as important as your health – and life.

So, the next time you sit down to watch the Super Bowl, Final Four, World Series, Stanley Cup or your grandson’s soccer game – make sure you take this advice to heart . . . literally.



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