Stay Safe and Healthy on Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl health
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Super Bowl Sunday is almost equivalent to a national holiday for some. I will be among the fans cheering this year for green and gold. But, for some, the day can bring about unfortunate accidents and ailments that can be avoided with just a little common sense, says Dr. Jeff Kalina, associate medical director of emergency medicine at The Methodist Hospital in Houston.

Dr. Kalina notes that the emergency department is usually busy each year after the Super Bowl. “I’ve seen a number of injuries, some fatal…because people often pay more attention to the game than to their health and safety.”

As with most “drinking holidays”, such as New Year’s Eve or the Fourth of July, there is often an increase in drunken driving and motor vehicle accidents. A recent study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research finds that about 8% of fans leaving professional sports games tested legally drunk with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or greater. 40% of fans tested positive for a positive BAC but not above the legal limit. Night games, tailgating and being under 35 years of age increased the risk.

A separate 2003 study found that there was a 41% relative increase in the average number of traffic fatalities after a Super Bowl telecast than on non-Super Bowl Sundays.

Read: Super Bowl Stress Can Trigger Heart Attack and Deaths

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Another recent study finds that Super Bowl home team losses can lead to significant stress that can cause heart attacks and stroke. Researchers from the Good Samaritan Hospital and Keck School of Medicine at USC found that there were an increased number of cardiac deaths associated with a Super Bowl loss versus a home team win.

The Big Game may also bring rise to more domestic violence cases, although this has been mostly chalked up to urban myth. But researchers a few years ago from Indiana University did conclude that domestic violence incidents increase on Super Bowl Sundays, just as they do on almost every holiday except for Valentine’s Day.

Read: Super Bowl Sunday and Domestic Violence

Dr. Kalina notes that there are also ED visits for stomach ailments due to the mixture of alcohol and junk food, bladder infections due to urinary retention (not going to the bathroom during the game), broken teeth (man trying to open a beer bottle with his teeth), and people who throw out their back by abruptly standing to cheer.

Interestingly, though, a study from 2008, published in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, male visits to the emergency department are actually lower during game time. Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine find that male patient registration during sporting events is lower, especially big games such as the Super Bowl and the World Series or when the “home team” is playing.

Read: Super Bowl Snacks, Beer Benefit the Prostate

“People have to remember that the Super Bowl is just a game,” Kalina said. “Don’t drink too much, don’t eat too much, and get up and go to the bathroom. Doing all these things will make your gathering and viewing of the Big Game much more enjoyable.”

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