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Health warning for the beautiful game

PUBLISHED: 08:09 17 May 2003 | UPDATED: 13:52 03 March 2010

WATCHING your football team play can be an emotional roller coaster whether they win or lose, but fans of poorly performing teams are at a higher risk of suffering heart attack or stroke, it has been revealed.

WATCHING your football team play can be an emotional roller coaster whether they win or lose, but fans of poorly performing teams are at a higher risk of suffering heart attack or stroke, it has been revealed.

A new report has shown a significant increase in the number of heart attack and stroke deaths among male supporters whose sides have just suffered a home defeat.

And while there does not seem to have been a huge rise at Ipswich Town lately, Suffolk doctor, Paul Silverston, said that people with weak hearts could be particularly susceptible to the adrenaline rush associated with a football match.

He said: "In a situation where you get too excited you get an adrenalin surge.

"As the adrenaline is forced into the blood stream it makes your heart beat faster so it is working harder.

"Sometimes the adrenaline alone can make the heart so sensitive that it causes a funny heart rhythm that can stop the heart."

Surges of adrenalin such as this can also cause strokes because the blood pressure is being pushed up.

As for many heart attacks and strokes occurring when a home side loses, Dr Silverston said it could be down to anger.

But what should people do who are at risk? Dr Silverston said: "You are always going to get stresses in life so the only thing really is to count to ten and be aware that it can happen.

"If you throw in a bit of alcohol, nicotine and caffeine that will make your problems worse because it raises the heartbeat."

The study, called 'A Matter of Life and Death: Population Mortality and Football Results was carried out by Dr Bill Kirkup, who is North East Director of Public Health.

He examined the frequency of deaths over five years in Leeds, Newcastle, Middlesborough and Sunderland.

He found that home defeats for those cities teams led to a 30 per cent rise in the number of male deaths from heart attacks and strokes on the day of the match.

It is believed that emotional and psychological stress prompted by a negative result can trigger the potentially deadly conditions among football fans and estimate the true figure might be higher than 30 per cent.

Ipswich Town fan, Alan Row from Shakespeare Road Stowmarket said that he can quite believe the study.

He said: "My wife tells me that my moods are relative to the performance of the team.

"Towards the end of the we were not doing quite so well but you do get used to it so it balances itself out.

"But you do feel your blood pressure going up and football is a very emotive sport."

Mr Row's father, also called Alan died from a stroke following an Ipswich Town match in January.

However his son pointed out that it was unlikely to be as a result of the match and had not been proven as he had been in pain before the match.

Graham Page is St John Ambulance deputy commissioner for Suffolk and is commander at Portman Road on match days.

He said in his opinion there had not been an increase although incidences do occur and happens more frequently as the size of the crowd increases.

"When you have 25,000 plus people together at one time there is a risk that someone is going to get ill, especially with all that excitement.

"But if it is going to happen it is in the best place because there are more people on hand to help them.

"There are the St John Ambulance with defibrillators and also the East Anglian Ambulance service."

N What do you think? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk


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