Stress from football can be a killer

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Cliff-hanging football matches can be fatal when the excitement proves too much, a new study shows.

Cliff-hanging football matches can be fatal when the excitement proves too much, a new study shows.

Researchers have found that Dutch fans were literally dropping dead on the day their team was knocked out of Euro 96, which was staged in England. Deaths among men from heart attacks and strokes soared by 50 per cent when Holland were beaten by France in a nail-biting penalty shoot-out.

Professor Diederick Grobbee and his research team from the University Medical Centre in Utrecht blamed stress, alcohol, overeating and excessive smoking during the game.

They suggested in an article in the British Medical Journal that vulnerable people should take aspirin or heart drugs before stressful events such as crucial football matches. Professor Grobbee's team analysed mortality data from the Dutch central bureau for statistics and compared the number of deaths on the day of the match with the average occurring over the preceding and following five days.

About 14 extra deaths occurred in total - a rise from an average 27.2 to 41 - representing an increase of about 50 per cent. There was no corresponding difference in the figures for women. Comparisons with the same periods in 1995 and 1997 showed that the jump in male deaths was an anomaly that only happened in 1996.

The researchers concluded: "Important sporting events may provoke a sufficient level of stress to trigger symptomatic cardiovascular disease."

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