Could the World Cup Give You a Heart Attack?

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Have you ever thrown an inanimate object or ripped off a jersey and set it on fire while watching sports and thought, “gee, this probably isn’t very good for my blood pressure and overall cardiovascular health and I wonder if this could kill me”? Do these thoughts make you kind of nervous for the 2014 World Cup?

Well, good news, scientists are actually looking into this for you! And the most recent research says that major sporting events did not create enough emotional stress to significantly impact cardiovascular disease (looking beyond just heart attacks and into a wider range of cardiovascular heart conditions).

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Looking at Germany during the 2006 World Cup, the study found that people in Germany were not admitted to the hospital with cardiovascular events at a higher rate on days when the German team played, or on days when the German team rested during the 2006 games.

So, no need to worry about the 2014 games, right? Well, not so fast.

On the “good study” side, the study controlled for other health factors and compared the findings to other time periods. The study accounted for age, gender, outside temperature, air pollution levels and whether or not the German team lost their soccer match. Also, it compared its World Cup stats to both the same period from the year before, and the periods immediately before and after the World Cup. So, the results are pretty isolated to the World Cup.

On the “think twice” side, this research focused on the region of Bavaria, where only two of the World Cup’s 12 stadiums, and seven of the event’s 64 games were played, meaning that the study wasn’t specified to people definitely watching the game and only a region associated with a small portion of the event. In contrast, a 2008 study that specifically looking for admissions from individuals within 500 miles of a game throughout Germany found that there was an increased risk of cardiovascular events during a World Cup game. So, hmmmmm.

And historically, results have further supported the argument that areas strongly associated with a specific team had a link between sports events and cardiovascular health. In the city of Los Angeles, a 2011 study found higher rates of cardiovascular disease among football fans 65 and older when the Los Angeles Raiders lost the Super Bowl in 1980. Similarly, there was an overall drop in heart attacks when the Los Angeles Rams won the Super Bowl in 1984 (the Rams were based in Los Angeles at the time).


So it appears that those geographically closer to sports events, and therefore more likely to have a passionate, emotional connection to the game, may in fact be at a higher risk for sports-fandom-induced cardiovascular disease. So, maybe just work on that stress maintenance to be safe.

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