I don’t know about you, but the New England Patriots haven’t even played their first (and hopefully not their last) NFL Playoff game of the year, and I’m already a bundle of nerves.
I was watching the Indianapolis Colts get demolished by the Kansas City Chiefs last Saturday (I stopped watching when it was 41 to 31 and missed the second biggest NFL Playoff comeback of all time) and was relishing the fact that I had no skin in the game. What did I care whether the Colts or the Chiefs won? Didn’t directly impact me one way or another. And my heart was thankful for it, too. I could simply watch the game without screaming, stomping, shouting, or kvetching.
I can’t seem to watch a Patriots game without my stomach tying in knots or my heart beating out of my chest. I seem to be the only one in my home who gets physically ill if we’re losing, but I know there are others out there like me. In fact, I would rather just get the game over with and know that the Pats have lost than continue to sweat it out until the very last minute. Doesn’t help that my dear Patriots seem to torture me every time by dragging things out until the final seconds of the game.
So when is a little sport-related anxiety a risk to your health? If it gets too intense. A study in 2006 found that German World Cup Soccer fans were more likely to suffer a heart attack during the month-long tournament when their team was playing, especially if they had underlying heart disease. Previous studies looking at Super Bowl statistics have shown similar findings.
Emotional stress can send sports fans into a real cardiac tailspin. Add alcohol, tobacco use, and salty junk foods and sports events can be a real recipe for disaster. So if you have a cardiac history or you experience chest pressure, shortness of breath, palpitations, or dizziness while rooting for your team, forget the game and call 911.
Best advice I can give is to know your limits and pace yourself. I can tell when it’s time for me to walk away or turn the TV off (that’s usually when I miss some unbelievable play). You can always rewind and watch it over again once you’ve collected yourself and your blood pressure has returned to normal.
Plus, if you’re a Patriots fan, there’s always a good chance that Andrew Luck’s “luck” will run out Saturday night and we’ll be spared 3 hours of nail-biting misery. If not, there’s always next year, right?
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