HEART
May 7, 2020

Diehard Fans

When local teams lose, ER admissions for heart attacks go up, suggesting a new way of looking at the agony of defeat.

TV sports are one more casualty of COVID-19, another big hole in our social fabric. But there might be a silver lining, especially for men who root for a losing team. Missing out on the stress that comes from watching all those failures in the clutch could be literally saving them from heartbreak. That's what one hospital in Poland found when they analyzed over a decade's worth of records.

Hospital admissions for men with heart attacks or unstable angina spiked by over 25 percent the day after the local soccer team lost a home game.

University of Utah Health has even published a guide to avoiding a heart attack while watching the Super Bowl.

There was no such spike found for women.

In the United States, we have Cheeseheads and people who bleed Dodger blue. Most of the rest of the world saves its passion for soccer, which they call football. The Jagiellonia Bialystok football team has been around since 1920 and plays in the top Polish soccer league. It was runner up for the Polish Cup in 2018-2019. Their devoted followers seem to be taking their failures quite seriously, at least the male fans are.

Records from the only hospital in Bialystok equipped to treat serious heart problems on a 24-hour basis found a 27 percent rise in admissions for acute coronary syndromes between 2007 and 2018 the day after a lost home match. This is basically medicalese for a rise in cases of heart attacks and unstable angina.

The team played 451 matches during this period, and the study covers over 10,000 heart admissions in total.

The study authors suggest that the mental and emotional stress of defeat may be responsible. They also offer some advice to fans of underperforming teams.

“Fans, particularly men with unhealthy lifestyles, should take up regular exercise and avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption,” said study lead author, Lukasz Kuzma, who is affiliated with the Medical University of Bialystok. “These steps are the key to supporting your favourite team as long as you wish without damaging your own health.”

The problem isn't limited to soccer fans. Doctors, researchers and the American Heart Association are aware of the problem and offer tips to help prevent heart problems that arise from overly exciting or agonizing contests. University of Utah Health has even published a guide to avoiding a heart attack while watching the Super Bowl.

Of course, sports fans may be more concerned with boredom right now. While waiting for their teams to get back in action, maybe they could take in a crokinole match or two.

The research on the study was presented on EAPC Essentials 4 You, a scientific platform of the European Society of Cardiology. The research has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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