Superbowl 2012

According to a a study published in Clinical Cardiology journal, deaths due to cardiac events can be related to championship football matches, such as the popular Super Bowl games. The authors found that a Super Bowl loss triggered increased deaths in both men and women and especially in older patients, whereas a Super Bowl win reduced death more in those aged ≥65 years and in women.

It is known that stressors such as intense sporting events may increase cardiac event rates in fans, but there has been little data available on the demographics of these fans. Based on our linear regression analysis, our study suggested that Los Angeles’ 1980 Super Bowl loss increased total and cardiac deaths in both men and women and triggered more deaths in older patients compared with younger patients. Conversely, the 1984 Super Bowl win showed a trend for reduction of death rates, slightly better in older than younger patients and in women more than men. There were no significant interactions between Super Bowl and race in our linear regression analyses.

The concept that sporting events may be associated with an increase in cardiac events was best studied in the European soccer literature. During the 2006 World Cup, when the German team played, there were increases in acute coronary syndromes and arrhythmias. The increase in cardiac events was more prominent in men than in women. Other reports of an increase in cardiac events and deaths suggest a prevalence in males. However, in our study there was no interaction between the 1980 Super Bowl loss and sex. In other words, there was an increase in total mortality as well as cardiac mortality in both men and women. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of an increase in cardiac events in women associated with the Super Bowl. Although the exact mechanism for this observation is not known, there are several possibilities. The Super Bowl may elicit an emotional response that is similar in US females and males, or perhaps a male’s reaction to the Super Bowl loss adversely affected the emotional state of a female partner.

Older patients are of course more likely to have advanced coronary artery disease, but there is little data in the literature regarding triggering of cardiac events in older vs younger individuals. Whereas both older and younger people demonstrated an increase in total and cardiac mortality, the absolute increase in death rates was greater in older (2.6 per day) than in younger individuals (0.11 per day), and the regression model demonstrated a significant interaction between the Super Bowl variable, age, and all-cause mortality (P < 0.0001) as well as circulatory death (P = 0.0002). The mechanism for this finding is not known, but it may be that atherosclerotic plaques in elderly patients are more vulnerable to rupture in response to an increase in catecholamines or stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system than are plaques in younger patients. Unlike the 1980 Super Bowl loss, the 1984 Super Bowl win, just a few years later and on a similar date (January 22, 1984, vs January 20, 1980), was not associated with an increase in total mortality or cardiac mortality. In fact, there was a slight reduction in mortality. This signal tended to be greatest in women and older individuals. As described in the Background section of this article, there were marked differences in the nature of these 2 Super Bowl games, beyond the fact that the 1980 game was a loss for Los Angeles and the 1984 game was a win. The 1980 loss was a much more intense game, with frequent lead changes. Fan loyalty may also have been greater in 1980 than in 1984, because the losing Rams had been in Los Angeles since 1946, whereas in 1984 the winning Raiders had only been playing in Los Angeles for a few years. In addition, the 1980 Super Bowl loss happened locally, in Pasadena, and the 1984 Super Bowl win took place out of state, in Florida. Hence, the emotional involvement of fans was likely greater for the 1980 Super Bowl loss. Whether a major sporting event (win or loss) can trigger death, including cardiac death, may in part be dependent upon demographics. Source: Kloner RA, McDonald SA, Leeka J, Poole WK. Role of age, sex, and race on cardiac and total mortality associated with Super Bowl wins and losses. Clin Cardiol 2011;34(2):102–107.