Devoted football fans experience such intense levels of physical stress while watching their team they could be putting themselves at risk of a heart attack, new research suggests.
The Oxford study reported by the BBC tested saliva from football fans during crucial matches.
It found levels of the hormone cortisol rocketed during important football matches. This can be dangerous, increasing blood pressure and strain on the heart.
“Fans who are strongly fused with their team – that is, have a strong sense of being ‘one’ with their team – experience the greatest physiological stress response when watching a match,” said Dr Martha Newson, researcher at the Centre for the Study of Social Cohesion, at Oxford.
“Fans who are more casual supporters also experience stress but not so extremely.”
Previous research has shown an increase in heart attacks among fans on important match days, whether supporting club or country.
In their study, the University of Oxford researchers tracked cortisol levels in 40 fans’ saliva before, during and after three World Cup matches.
Dr Newson suggested stadiums should dim the lights and play calming music after crunch games.
“Clubs may be able to offer heart screenings or other health measures to highly committed fans who are at the greatest risk of experiencing increased stress during the game,” she added.