Cheering Too Hard for Your Team? It Might Be Riskier Than You Think!

Do you ever find yourself on the edge of your seat during a particularly intense game, cheering your team on with all your might? It turns out that the excitement and emotional investment of watching your favorite team in a close game can have a serious impact on your health. Keep these risks in mind the next time you watch your favorite teams compete, especially during important events like the playoffs or college bowl games.

Increased heart attack risk

The British Medical Journal published research showing that in England, heart attacks increased by a staggering 25 percent when the national soccer team lost a penalty shootout to Argentina. Their findings strongly suggest that emotional upset may be a trigger for heart attacks, particularly if your team loses a nail-biter.

The stress hormone cortisol is produced in the body in response to an intense or emotionally charged event, causing an increased heart rate and blood pressure. When you’re watching your favorite team in a high-stakes match, the release of cortisol as a reaction to the pressure can significantly elevate the risk of a heart attack, especially in those with pre-existing heart conditions.

Is it all bad news?

While the downside of emotional investment in sports may appear alarming, there are silver linings. Watching sports can also have positive effects on your mental health and wellbeing.

For instance, athletes display dedication, commitment, and hard work, which can serve as an inspiration for fans to incorporate similar values into their daily lives. Additionally, being part of a passionate community of supporters can lead to social connections with those even outside your immediate circle. Sharing the emotional journey of cheering for a team can foster a sense of belonging and strengthen your identity.

These mental health benefits should not be disregarded, but it’s essential to balance enthusiasm with overall well-being. Make sure to watch games responsibly and manage the stress associated with close matches.

Ways to keep stress in check

When watching a close game, employ stress-management techniques to reduce the risk of adverse health effects. Here are a few tips to help you keep stress and cortisol levels in check as you enjoy your favorite team’s compete:

  1. Deep breathing exercises: Take time to slow down your breath, inhaling deeply, and exhaling slowly. Engaging in deep breathing throughout the game can help regulate your heart rate and stress levels.

  2. Be mindful: Stay present in the moment and remind yourself that while you certainly want your team to win, the outcome is out of your control. Acknowledge that it’s just a game, and there are ultimately more important things in life.

  3. Control your surroundings: If you’re prone to experiencing stress when watching games, consider changing the environment in which you watch them. Opt for a more quiet and relaxed setting, or seek out like-minded individuals who share your appreciation for the sport without letting the stakes overwhelm them.

  4. Practice acceptance: Accept the fact that your team may not always win, and that’s okay. Hope for success, but be prepared for defeat. Remember, even the most successful teams have their off days.

  5. Stay physically active: When watching an intense game, don’t forget to move around during commercial breaks. Physical activity can help alleviate stress, so take advantage of timeouts and halftimes to stretch or go for a short walk around your neighborhood.

The bottom line

Watching sports, especially high-stakes games, can certainly be entertaining and enjoyable. However, it’s crucial to safeguard your health by managing the stress and emotional distress that may accompany close games. By implementing stress-management techniques while watching your favorite team, you can continue to enjoy their successes and support them in their failures, without jeopardizing your health in the process.