Cardiac Issues and the Big Game – Are They Related?

The day of the big game is finally here, and superfans like you are feeling some intense emotions. The tension in the stadium is building, and so is the tension inside your own body. You hold your breath in anticipation of the next few seconds. Will he catch it? Oh no…it’s an interception!

And then suddenly, you don’t feel so good. Has stress struck the superfan?

Too much stress is never good for your health, and it turns out the extreme emotions experienced by sports fans can take a toll on the cardiovascular system. A recent search of Emergency Department claims by UnitedHealthcare shows there may be a correlation between three types of cardiac conditions and the weekend of the big game. During the most important Sunday football game of the year, claims involving cardiac palpitations, hypertension, and heart attack were statistically higher -- 2.6 percent -- than other weekends in January through March.


While this research is supported by other studies, one of the first to link the big game to heart risk was Los Angeles cardiologist Robert Kloner in a study in the American Journal of Cardiology. He associated Los Angeles’ 1980 football championship loss with a 22 percent rise in deaths from cardiovascular causes city-wide. Conversely, Kloner associated the same team’s victory four years later with a lower risk of cardiovascular death in the city.

What’s the problem?
Intense excitement – good or bad – can pump up adrenaline in your system and prompt an elevated heart rate and blood pressure. In extreme cases, those upticks can put enough pressure on the cardiovascular system to cause heart attacks and strokes.

Healthy fandom
It’s great to be excited about the game, but it’s also important to stay healthier. Here are some tips to help keep your cool:

  • Walk away: Stand up, move around and take a break from the action. A quick walk around the neighborhood might help, too. Look! Life is going on, no matter how badly your team is losing.
  • Deep breathing: Take it slow and easy. The oxygen will help your brain and your body to settle down.
  • Have fun anyway: Ever heard of the saying “It’s only a game?” Try to laugh it off and enjoy yourself and the company of your friends, even if they are rooting for the other team.
  • Seriously bad? Call 911: If you experience chest pain or shortness of breath, don’t wait until the final quarter – call 911, turn off the game and wait calmly until Emergency Medical Technicians arrive.

So, whether things go your team’s way or not, be mindful of these tips and remember… there’s always next year.