FOR ONE fan at the Meadowlands on Jan. 14, the Giants' touchdown 1:57 into the NFC title game was no cause for celebration. Just after the play, Fred Oser, 56, of Perth Amboy, N.J., had a heart attack and had to be revived with a defibrillator. His experience points to an often overlooked fact: As hazardous as pro sports are to players, they can be just as dangerous for fans.
That was made clear in a study published last month in the British Medical Journal. Doctors in the Netherlands examined deaths due to heart attacks and strokes on and around June 22, 1996, the day Holland played France in the quarterfinals of the '96 European soccer championship. Researchers found that cardiac-related deaths jumped 50% among Dutch men on the day of the game compared with the 10 days surrounding it. Tellingly, there was no such rise among women.
Fans should take note this weekend. "There's no doubt that Super Bowl Sunday is a high-risk day," says David Meyerson, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "The stress of watching the game can trigger heart-rhythm disturbances, spike up blood pressure and cause the arteries to spasm. In addition a lot of people consume snack foods laden with salt and fat and drink alcohol in abundance."
The bottom line then, is this: Enjoy in moderation and remember—it's only a game.