Washington D.C [USA], October 5 : Sporting events often leave people on the edge of their seats with excitement or sometimes stress.
But a new study reveals that spectators experience significantly elevated heart rates, equivalent to rates with vigorous exercise, while watching hockey games live or on TV.
The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat can have a substantial effect on the cardiovascular system.
Investigators took the pulse of fans during a hockey game and found that on average, their heart rate increased by 75% when watching on TV, and by a whopping 110% (more than doubled, equivalent to the cardiac stress with vigorous exercise) when watching in person.
While previous studies have indicated a link between sporting events and cardiac incidents, this is the first study to specifically focus on hockey.
The average 75% increase in heart rate they found in TV viewers and the 110% bump from watching a game live are equivalent to the heart rate response that occurs with moderate and vigorous physical stress, respectively.
Overall, the heart rate increased by a median of 92% (almost doubled) across all spectators.
"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," said senior investigator Professor Paul Khairy, MD, PhD, Montreal Heart Institute, University of Montreal.
"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," he continued.
While it would be easy to assume the most heart pounding moments of a game come right at the end, researchers found that peak heart rates occurred most frequently during any scoring opportunity - for or against - and during overtime.
Prior to their participation, individuals were asked to fill out a brief questionnaire, which not only assessed their general health, but also determined their fan passion score, a method of calculating how invested a person is in the team.
Researchers adopted the fan passion score from previous studies done on soccer fans, but found that in hockey, the score failed to predict heart rate responses.
Previous studies have shown that cardiovascular events triggered by watching sporting events are more common in people with existing coronary artery disease, attributed to a disproportionate increase in markers of vasoconstriction and acute inflammation in those individuals.
The finding was published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.
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