The rabid football fan is nothing new--show up at any Big Ten game day, let alone brave a slew of Green Bay Packers fans, and you're going to be in for some heavy shouting, extreme team loyalty, and if it's a crushing win or loss--buckets, and buckets of tears. What you may not know, is that this very fandom could kill you.
According to a study that tracked L.A. residents during 1980 and 1984--when L.A. made it into the gridiron grudge match--found that fans got so worked up over the game it affected their health. According to CNN's Matt McMillan, "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." When L.A. bested the Washington Redskins in 1984, however, the opposite occurred: cardiac deaths actually dropped among Los Angelenos.
So what's the deal? Theories vary. According to one of the researchers, Dr. Richard Kloner, fans are bonded to their teams, and it takes a toll. "The team, in some ways, becomes like part of the family," he says, and "emotional stress stimulates the fight or flight response." However, cardiologist David Frid, who CNN's Matt McCillen notes was not part of the study, says the heart attacks may be more about what's served at the tailgate rather than the pummeling on the field, "one high-fat meal can cause your blood to be more likely to clot," he says.
The fan insanity may not be all that surprising (researchers found similar results during the 2006 World Cup). Here's a bit of cocktail conversation, though: the study found that the Superbowl affects the hearts of women as well as men--in fact, it affects women more.
For those determined to watch February 6 Super Bowl but are curious about calming down, there's always meditation.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.