Fri, Feb 01, 2008 - Page 23 News List

Super Bowl might pose health risk to fans, doctors warn


For rabid fans of the New York Giants and New England Patriots, this Sunday's Super Bowl won't be just a game. It may be a health hazard.

Heart attacks and other cardiac emergencies doubled in Munich when Germany played in World Cup matches two years ago, a new study reports.

While history suggests European soccer fans can get a bit more worked up than the average US football fan, doctors think there are some valid warnings to be shared.

"I know a little bit about the Super Bowl," study author Gerhard Steinbeck of Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich said in a telephone interview. "It's reasonable to think that something quite similar might happen."

He and his colleagues present their results in yesterday's New England Journal of Medicine. They blamed emotional stress for the heart problems, but said lack of sleep, overeating, wolfing down junk food, boozing and smoking might have played a role too.

Research by David Jerrard, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Maryland, indicates that some men put off seeking emergency treatment if they're watching a game.

On a typical Super Bowl Sunday, "the number of patients waiting to be seen dries up dramatically," Jerrard said.

But delaying that visit to stick with a televised event is a bad idea, especially for people with a history of heart trouble, he says.

"Much of the chest pain or upper abdominal pain that people might be experiencing is mostly likely related to the food they're eating, the alcohol they're ingesting," he said. "But of course, you never know."

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