Watching Hockey Games May Be Bad For Your Heart, Study Claims

New research from Canada suggests that hockey games could be bad for your heart, regardless if you’re watching the game live or on television.

In an attempt to measure the impact of hockey games on a person’s heart, a team of Montreal Heart Institute researchers tracked the heart rates of 20 healthy Montreal Canadiens fans ranging in age from 20 to 63. According to the New York Daily News, the participants were asked to wear Holter monitors to track their heart activity while watching hockey games.

Based on the study’s findings, fans who watched the games on TV saw their heart rates rise by an average of 75 percent, which is similar to the impact of moderate exercise. Those who went to the stadium to watch live hockey games experienced a 110 percent increase in heart rate, which is closer to the impact vigorous exercise could have on one’s heart. Philly.com noted that the median heart rate increase for all the participants was measured at 92 percent.

As the New York Daily News warned, the findings do not, in any way, suggest that hockey games are a viable substitute for an actual workout. In fact, the intensity of watching the sport could cause the exact opposite of the benefits exercise are supposed to provide.

“(The findings) indicate that viewing a hockey game can likewise be the source of an intense emotional stress, as manifested by marked increases in heart rate,” researcher Paul Khairy told the New York Daily News.

There have been previous studies suggesting that watching sports could lead to heart events, especially for people who have preexisting heart disease. In 2003, a team of Swiss doctors found that 60 percent more people died from heart attacks outside of the hospital during the 2002 World Cup, as compared to statistics from the same time one year prior. BBC News added that heart attack rates in England increased by 25 percent year-over-year during the 1998 World Cup, right around the time when England lost to Argentina in a tense penalty shootout.

The findings of the latter study are consistent with the new study on hockey games and heart events, as the participants’ heart rates were at their highest when the games were at their most intense, specifically during scoring opportunities and overtime. And while Khairy noted that his team’s study suggests that there is a lot of potential for the emotional stress in hockey games to trigger heart attacks or similar events, he also believes more research may be needed to determine if certain hockey fans need safeguards to help them avoid heart events while watching.

“It remains to be determined whether these heart rate increases translate into a higher rate of cardiovascular events on a population level,” Khairy said.

“The message is not to discourage people from enjoying life and watching their favorite sports team. However, better understanding risks could help us minimize them and tailor preventive strategies.”

[Featured Image by Luca Santilli/Shutterstock]