Super Bowls and Heart Attacks – NOT a Winning Combination

Heartbeat Monitor with football

Less than a minute left of regulation play and I’m sweating. San Francisco keeps moving toward the end zone. My heart is racing. Colin Kaepernick’s pass is caught! The ball is now on the 18-yard line. I can’t breathe! This could be the end! The snap. The ball goes flying into the end zone. My heart stops. But wait! There’s Richard Sherman’s arm! Intercepted pass! No touchdown! Seattle Seahawks have won the NFC Championship!

And I feel like I just ran a marathon.

Thankfully I have a healthy heart that could handle the pressure. But for more than 67 million other Americans, such a pressure cooker of a game could be potentially deadly.

Racing heart, breathlessness and sweating could be signs of a really exciting game — or symptoms of a heart attack.


Football induced heart attack?

Yup! It can happen.

Just ask a Rams fan. In the two weeks after the Rams lost the Super Bowl in 1980, the number of reported heart attacks went up according to a study published in the American Journal of Cardiology. A similar study of the World Cup in 2006 showed a 2.66 percent increase of cardiac events in Germans whenever the German team was playing.

Penalty flag!

So how’s a fan to know he or she is in danger? We love our teams and can’t help getting caught-up in the drama of game.

Don’t throw a challenge flag yet. There are things you can do to help.

First, learn to recognize the primary symptoms of a heart attack:

  • Tightness or aching pressure – like a band – across the chest, possibly moving out to upper body
  • Indigestion, nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Excessive sweating
  • Overly rapid or irregular heartbeats
  • Fainting or lightheadedness

If the pain or pressure persists more than a few minutes, call 911 or get someone to drive you to the emergency department.

According to Drew Baldwin, MD, a physician in Virginia Mason’s Cardiology Department and Heart Institute, “Chest discomfort can be due to many different causes, but a heart attack is one of most dangerous. A heart attack happens when one of the arteries to the heart muscle is blocked. If that happens, the blockage should be treated as soon as possible. If you have chest discomfort or other symptoms suspicious for a heart attack, you should call 911 and get evaluated right away.”

So Hawks (and Bronco) fans out there: enjoy the game safely this Sunday. Your team wants you to root for them again next year.

Despite being raised a third-generation Giants fan, Marianne is a proud member of the 12th Man (and web producer for Virginia Mason.)


  1. Women may have all, none, many or a few of the typical heart attack symptoms. For women, the most common heart attack symptom is still some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest. But women are more likely than are men to also have heart attack symptoms without chest pain, such as neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort, or unusual or unexplained fatigue.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: