Super Bowl Loss Can 'Kill' Some Fans

Study found death rates rose after a defeat, and dropped after a victory

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SATURDAY, March 28 (HealthDay News) -- Watching your favorite NFL team lose in the Super Bowl could actually end your life, a new study suggests.

However, the good news is that a victory might do just the opposite, the researchers noted. The finding was presented Saturday at the American College of Cardiology annual meeting, in Orlando, Fla.

To come to this conclusion, a team from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, looked at death rates in Los Angeles County on the day of two Super Bowls that had decidedly different outcomes for the home team: 1980, when the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Los Angeles Rams in what has long been considered one of the most competitive match-ups in Super Bowl history; and 1984, when the Los Angeles Raiders handily beat the Washington Redskins. The researchers also looked at death rates for the two weeks following each game. They then compared those statistics to death rates in the same county for the same period in the years between and after those Super Bowls.

As it turned out, they found that all-cause death rates rose significantly after the 1980 loss, and death rates declined after the 1984 victory.

"The 1980 Super Bowl has been regarded by sports enthusiasts to be one of the most competitive games in the history of the Super Bowl, with the lead changing seven times. The Rams were underdogs going into the game; they lost by a very close margin after entering in the fourth quarter with a lead. The team had been in Los Angeles for many years, and this was their first Super Bowl game. All these factors might have made the fans more emotionally involved," study author Dr. Robert Kloner, director of research at the Heart Institute at Good Samaritan Hospital and a professor of medicine at Keck, said in a news release from the American College of Cardiology. "The 1984 win, on the other hand, was a victory for L.A. from the beginning and resulted in a large margin of victory. Also, the 1984 game was not played locally, it was played out of state, so there are some differences in the intensity of the game that might have been important here."

Kloner had this advice for diehard football fans:

"Talk to your doctor, especially if you have cardiac risk factors. There may be pharmacologic agents, such as beta blockers, aspirin or anti-anxiety drugs, that could help," Kloner said. "Or relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing. There are some things that can be done. And of course, it is very important to control the well-known cardiac risk factors, such as hypertension, cholesterol abnormalities, smoking and diabetes."

More information

For a look at how soccer fans can suffer the same fate, go to NPR.

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