Study: Watching sports can break your heart, literally

PHILADELPHIA — A new link between watching sports and cardiovascular stress has been shown in a study by high school students.

Being a Canadian study, the sport used for the research was, of course, hockey. Outfitted with heart rate monitors, 10 participants watched a game at home, while another 10 attended a game in person. The results showed the at home viewers had an average 75% increase in heart rate during key points in the game, while the live attendees had a 110% percent increase.

Hockey fan cheering
Some people really do live and die by their sports franchises. A new study finds that, whether a team wins or loses, watching a game can have serious effects on one’s heart.

“Our results indicate that viewing a hockey game can likewise be the source of an intense emotional stress, as manifested by marked increases in heart rate,” says senior investigator Dr. Paul Khairy of the Montreal Heart Institute in a press release. “The study raises the potential that the emotional stress-induced response of viewing a hockey game can trigger adverse cardiovascular events on a population level. Therefore, the results have important public health implications.”

Dr. Khairy, who assisted with authoring the study, is the father of 13-year-old Leia Khairy, who designed and conducted the experiment alongside fellow Royal West Academy student 14-year-old Roxana Barin.

“I sincerely congratulate Leia Khairy and Roxana Barin for undertaking this novel and important project at such a young age,” says the elder Khairy. “They have scientifically demonstrated that it is indeed exciting to watch the Montreal Canadiens! Their research raises public awareness about the potential role of emotional sports-related stressors in triggering cardiac events, and opens up avenues for future research into mitigating such risks.”

While it isn’t the first study to link cardiac stress with sports events, it is the first to do so with hockey. The editors of the heart journal it was published in also note the study adds to an important area of research and discussion.

“At events where triggering might occur, appropriate precautions should be in place, including the availability of defibrillators and personnel trained in their use,” they write. “Standard procedures should exist for getting individuals with symptoms to medical attention, and staff training should be updated regularly. Such readiness will save lives.”

The mention of a need for defibrillators and training at sports events is timely, as other recent research has shown many issues with the availability and training for the life-saving devices.

The high school student’s findings, along with the accompanying editorial, were published recently in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.

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About the Author

Calum Mckinney

I’m a writer and content creator focused on science and art. I live in Baltimore, Maryland with my cat Maggie.

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