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A New Study Shows That Diehard Soccer Fans Are Putting Themselves At A Risk Of A Heart Attacks From Stress

That fútbol stress is real you guys, like, physically real. A study revealed that soccer fans experience such intense levels of physical stress while they watch their team, they could be putting themselves at risk of a heart attack. You read that right. Fútbol fans get so invested in their team’s games that they are putting themselves at physical risk.

They don’t call it ‘la pasión’ for nothing. 

Growing up Latino, you definitely jumped when your dad and tíos got over-excited screaming “GOL” during fútbol matches.  Eventually, we joined in. Now, it turns out that the stress and the nerve-wracking anticipation of what’ll happen next are actually damaging. Like, for real.  A study by the University of Oxford suggested that fans of soccer are putting themselves under some serious stress when they watch their team.

The Oxford study tested saliva from Brazilian fans during their historic loss to Germany at the 2014 World Cup.

The study found levels of the hormone cortisol rocketed during the 7-1 home defeat in the semi-final.

Particularly devoted fans are more at risk of experiencing dangerous levels of the ‘fight or flight’ hormone cortisol.

Cortisol is a hormone commonly associated with stress. ‘Fans who are strongly fused with their team – that is, have a strong sense of being ‘one’ with their team – experience the greatest physiological stress response when watching a match,’ Dr. Martha Newson, a researcher at the Centre for the Study of Social Cohesion, University of Oxford, told BBC. ‘Fans who are more casual supporters also experience stress, but not so extremely.’ This study was published in the journal Stress and Health.

This increase in blood pressure and strain on the heart can be very dangerous.

The researchers found no difference in stress levels between men and women during the game, despite preconceptions men are more “bonded to their football teams”.

Raised cortisol can also give people a feeling of impending doom.

This feeling of doom can be defined as a sense that their life is in danger or they are under attack. Previous research has shown an increase in heart attacks among fans on important match days, whether supporting club or country. Prolonged high levels of cortisol can: constrict blood vessels, raise blood pressure and damage an already weakened heart.

There are many health conditions tied to extreme stress that hardcore football fans should be aware of. 

While cortisol is essential to responding to life’s daily stresses, too much cortisol over time can result in a suppressed immune system (more coughs and colds and even allergies), weight gain, and heightened blood pressure with a significant risk of heart disease. Bottom line, all this soccer-induced stress can be pretty dangerous.

In their study, the University of Oxford researchers tracked cortisol levels in 40 fans’ saliva before, during and after three World Cup matches

The most stressful by far was the semi-final. “It was a harrowing match – so many people stormed out sobbing,” Dr Newson told BBC. But the fans had used coping strategies such as humor and hugging to reduce their stress, bringing it down to pre-match levels by the final whistle.

It’s not all bad news though, experts suggest that these findings might be helpful in identifying fans who are at risk. 

From our research, we may be better equipped to identify which fans are most at risk of heart attacks,’ says Newson. ‘Clubs may be able to offer heart screenings or other health measures to highly committed fans who are at the greatest risk of experiencing increased stress during the game.’

The findings could also be relevant to improving crowd management strategies. 

Passionate soccer fans around the world have been known to engage in violent behaviors, such as hooliganism and other aggressive clashes. The findings could also be relevant to improving crowd management strategies.

The study ‘Devoted fans release more cortisol when watching live soccer matches’ can be read in the journal Stress and Health.

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