Argentina fans smile before the Group C World Cup 2006 soccer match
between the Netherlands and Argentina in Frankfurt June 21, 2006.
The World Cup can bring both joy and despair, and can even end marriages, but
now doctors are studying whether the thrill of it all can be literally heart
Previous research during international soccer tournaments has found an
increase in the general incidence of heart attacks, particularly on days when
tense matches have fans on the edge of their seats.
In the new FIFA-approved study researchers will receive blood samples from
heart attack victims from all over Germany who were watching football at the
time of the attack.
They plan to search the samples for traces of stress hormones which can clot
Doctors will also receive samples from anyone who collapses in a stadium
during a World Cup match to check whether their blood has higher levels of
hormones than fans watching at home.
"Patients are asked precisely what they were doing at the time of the attack
whether they were following football on the radio or television, or even
watching the pundits after the game," David Leistner of Munich's Ludwig
Maximilians University, told Reuters.
"So far, on the days when Germany has played we have received a lot more
blood samples," he added.
The study's first results are due in October.
A study in 1998 found the number of heart attacks increased by 25 per cent on
the day and in the two days after England lost to Argentina in a World Cup
Researchers in Switzerland also found heart attacks in the country increased
by 60 per cent during the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea even though
the Swiss team was not competing.
The findings prompted calls for emergency heart attack equipment to be
installed in stadiums during Euro 2004.
"If it really is the case that higher stress levels increase the chance of a
heart attack then attending soccer games may have to carry a health warning,"
Doctors have advised fans who may already be at greater risk of heart attack
due to obesity, high-cholesterol or diabetes, to refrain from drinking
excessively during the World Cup.