02/04/2012 08:55 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Day Four: Super Bowl 2012 -- Giants? Patriots? Winner's Fans May Get Heart Attack Protection... Seriously

"Could there be a relation between cardiovascular events and environmental stress in the form of sporting events, making winning or losing a life or death issue?" asks Robert A. Kloner, M.D., Ph.D., in this month's Heart journal.

Well, yeah. But Kloner's editorial is not new. It originally ran in May 2003, as noted by Heart.

What hasn't been emphasized in news reports is the curious reduction in heart attacks among fans of winning teams!

Kloner's study of Los Angeles County death records around the 1980 and 1984 Los Angeles Rams Super Bowl games -- the first an emotional loss (to the Steelers), the second an easy win (over the Redskins) was finally published in The American Journal of Cardiology in 2009. While heart attack-related deaths increased after the loss, during the two weeks following the win, Angelenos experienced a lower rate of all-cause deaths, including heart attacks.

Results are even more plentiful in European studies. French researchers F. Berthier and F. Boulay measured lowered heart attack mortality in French men the day France won the 1998 World Cup.

The 1998 World Cup was the biggest sporting event ever held in France. Mounting expectations for final victory had a powerful impact on the general population as France won game after game. The final, watched by 23.6 million television viewers (40% of the French population), began at 9 p.m. and ended at 11p.m. on Sunday, July 12. Consequently the decreased mortality from myocardial infarction in French men on July 12 basically occurred during the hours preceding the final. Such a positive effect of a major sporting event on national mortality data has never been reported.

Mortality from myocardial infarction in men was almost 30 percent lower on the day of the final compared with the five days on either side. The researchers concluded that:

The combined effect of a day off work, a national holiday, and the euphoria of victory might also explain the fall in mortality from myocardial infarction two days later on July 14. It is noteworthy that a decreased workload in accident and emergency departments was also reported when England hosted the 1996 European football championship. Moreover a reduction in the number of emergency psychiatric presentations occurred in Scotland during World Cup final competitions and was attributed to enhancement of national identity and cohesion.

The team France beat in 1998 was Brazil. Then 18-year-old Brazilian soccer fan Gisele Bundchen, now wife of Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady, prays there's not a repeat of 1998 or Super Bowl 2008 when Giant's QB Eli Manning dominated. See you on Day Five.


Megan Parmenter, Yale Heart Study Research Associate, contributed to reporting this blog.

February is American Heart Month. Please take a few minutes to visit the Yale Heart Study site and complete the heart attack survivors survey, or forward it to someone you know who has survived a heart attack.

Questions? Contact, visit, or phone me at: 203-785-4872.

Disclosure: Suzanne O'Malley is a Senior Research Associate for the non-profit NIH-funded Yale Heart Study, a Faculty member of the Yale Writers' Conference & Associate/Director of Yale Summer Film Institute.

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