June 23, 2018
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Health and the Gridiron

Take heart, Patriots fans — it may be better for your health that the team didn’t make it to Sunday’s Super Bowl.

A study published this week in the journal Clinical Cardiology reports that fans of the losing team, especially those with heart disease, are at higher risk for heart attacks.

Researchers focused on two Super Bowls in which Los Angeles teams played. In 1980, the Rams lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers. That year, according to the researchers’ analysis of death records in Los Angeles County, there was a 15 percent increase in deaths among men from circulatory ailments. There was a 27 percent increase among women, compared to the same time period in subsequent years.

In 1984, the Los Angeles Raiders handily beat the Washington Redskins. There was no increase in heart-related deaths.

“Fans develop an emotional connection to their team … and when their team loses, that’s an emotional stress,” the study’s lead author, Robert A. Kloner, M.D., a professor of cardiology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles, told CNN. “There’s a brain-heart connection, and it is important for people to be aware of that.”

This follows research published in 2008 in the New England Journal of Medicine that found game day means more heart attacks among hard-core armchair quarterbacks.

In that study, German researchers looked at heart attack data during the 2006 World Cup soccer tournament. They found that cardiac problems in Bavaria were more than three times higher for men and nearly two times higher for women during the German team’s World Cup matches.

Games in which Germany scored the winning goal in the final minutes or during a penalty shootout were associated with large increases in the number of heart attacks. Less consequential games or ones decided by more than one goal have less effect.

There’s reason for concern on the field, too. According to data provided to The Associated Press, there was only one player who weighed more than 300 pounds in the NFL in 1970. There were three in 1980, 94 in 1990 and 301 in 2000. This season, there were 394 players tipping the scales at 300 pounds or more.

These men are at greater risk for heart disease and diabetes than their smaller counterparts.

A recent study of college offensive linemen, some of the biggest players in football, found they averaged more than 27 percent body fat. The healthy range is 8 percent to 19 percent. Worse, 69 of the players already had at least one condition, such as high blood pressure, that put them at risk for heart disease.

Pass the chips and dip.

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