Football is fun – but dangerous to your heart

July 16, 2008 by  

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Major sports events are fun – but also dangerous for the heart and the blood vessels of the fans. I have just lived through another major sports tournament this year – the European Football Championships held in Switzerland (my current place of residence) and Austria .

Two years ago, it was the World Football Championships (known as THE WORLD CUP) in Germany (my place of residence then) that I could experience.

Suffice it to say that I’ve lived long enough in Europe to know the importance of football to Europeans. (Yes, it’s called football – otherwise known as soccer to North Americans.) Especially to the men. In Europe, football is almost like a religion, and the men the most fervent of devotees.

A group of doctors in Munich collected statistics on emergency cases from June 9 to July 9, 2006 and answered the question “Is there a link between a major sports events such as the World Cup and cardiovascular events?” And the results are as follows:

On those days when the German team was playing, the rate of cardiac emergency cases was 2.66 times higher than periods outside the tournament dates (May 1 to June 8 and July 10 to July 31, 2006, and May 1 to July 31 in 2003 and 2005). This increased rate of cardiac problems is 3.36 times higher in men and 1.82 times higher in women.

On those days when Germany was having a match, the highest average incidence of cardiac events occurred during the first 2 hours after the match has begun. Cardiac events reported were myocardial infarction (heart attack), unstable angina pectoris, and cardiac arrhythmia.

I and my husband are big football fans and have been to several matches during the European Championships in 2000 as well as last the World Cup in 2006. We didn’t have the luck this year to get tickets for matches in Switzerland but we went to see a couple of matches in public viewing areas set up in major cities. Most matches, however, we saw at home on TV.

In the stadiums and in the public viewing areas, the mood is always fever-pitch high. On most days, the summer temperatures are also high and the amount of alcohol consumed and cigarettes smoked are way above normal. Perfect setting for a CVD event, I’d say.

I don’t think that the conditions are any better when people watch the matches at home. The grill is spewing out ribs and sausages, and the fridge contains seemingly endless amounts of beer (much cheaper than in the stadium).

Sounds familiar? I’d say that this danger would to any major sports event – not only football – be it the SuperBowl, NBA, Rugby World Cup, etc.

The researchers conclude that

“viewing a stressful [football] match more than doubles the risk of an acute cardiovascular event. In view of this excess risk, particularly in men with known coronary heart disease, preventive measures are urgently needed.”

And oh, by the way, call it football, not soccer. Careful, using the “s” word can drive some people’s blood pressure up.


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