The Super Bowl May Cause Heart Attacks: Oh Really?

The Super Bowl May Cause Heart Attacks: Oh Really?

Feb 2, 2011

Heart attacks and football fans go together like wings and beer.

Packers The Super Bowl May Cause Heart Attacks: Oh Really?

CNN and Health.com are reporting that this Sunday’s Super Bowl between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers may cause a few heart attacks this weekend. In related news red-blooded males may consume an above average amount of alcohol and buffalo wings this Sunday.

What may sound like common sense to your average fanatical sports fan, seems to baffle news anchors and websites.

It’s become trendy to pawn common sense off as a scientific study when backed with a few statistics. What’s next, a study that confirms male masturbation spikes when we’re sad and alone? Or women with more than five cats tend to live alone?

The results published in Clinical Cardiology journal are based heavily in Los Angeles health statistics following the L.A. Rams Super Bowl loss in 1980 and the L.A. Raiders Super Bowl victory in 1984.

In 1980, when the Pittsburgh Steelers staged a fourth-quarter comeback to beat the underdog L.A. Rams, heart-related deaths shot up 15% among men and 27% among women in the subsequent two weeks, compared with the same period in 1981 through 1983.

There was also a significant increase in deaths among people ages 65 and older, the study found.

The 1984 Super Bowl was a different story. The L.A. Raiders handily beat the Washington Redskins, and unlike four years earlier, the cardiac death rate didn’t increase after the game. In fact, the death rate for women and older people dropped slightly.

I have a couple problems with this scientific “study.”

First-off, stress causes heart attacks, that isn’t news— it’s universally accepted fact that we’ve known for a long time. The Super Bowl can be extremely stressful for a fan of either team. The pain and anguish of a loss from your favorite team is real, devastating, and stressful. Combine that with pizza, beer, wings, whiskey, nachos, tequila, potato skins and women rooting for teams based on uniform colors and it’s a plainly obvious heart attack sandwich.

I’m personally concerned about the stress, irrational anger and irregular heart palpitations caused from the poisonous combination of being a New York Mets and Buffalo Bills fan.

Secondly, why the hell would anyone choose Los Angeles to study “sports fans” physical reaction to a Super Bowl result? Was it convenient or something? Because it’s the same city that has been notoriously too indifferent to support a NFL franchise since 1994.

I don’t mean to offend Los Angeles sports fans, but their commitment to their sports franchises is suspect at best. Celebrities root for the Lakers when they’re winning though, and most fans at least catch three innings of a Dodgers game, so I guess they really care.

Thirdly, U.S. obesity rates rose from 14.5% in 1971 to around 35% today, meaning our hearts now have significantly more work to do than our 1980s counterparts (although they enjoyed their cocaine).

Want a real study? Check the heart attack rates of true, blue-collar, sports towns after a Super Bowl win and loss, like say — Pittsburgh and Green Bay, where fandom (and Green Bay’s obesity rate) are well above the national average.

This Super Bowl weekend remember to stay calm and pay careful attention to the words psychiatrist Dr. John Sharpe and “don’t become that ogre who can disenfranchise the health of those around you.”

Ah who am I kidding? Go ahead and disenfranchise the health of your whole county, state, and general geographic area— it’s the damn Super Bowl. If the heart attack rates in Pittsburgh and Green Bay don’t rise I’m sure their own citizens would take it as a personal disappointment.

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