Soccer World Cup: Here’s How It Could Affect Your Health [Warnings and Tips]

Four years have come and gone, so it’s time for another soccer World Cup organized by FIFA. It’s a time for people to feel a sense of belonging and shared identity as they enjoy matches taking place at the Mundial. As per scientists, sporting events such as this one boost mental well-being and make life meaningful.

World Cup

World Cup. Credit: Revol Web

There is enough evidence to suggest that people should exercise extra caution when watching the World Cup, however. Let’s consider some health hazards that could stem from this, so you can be more watchful while the tournament lasts.

Read Also: Few Soccer Players are Getting Caught Doping Compared to Other Sports

Stress and Heart Attacks

Global sporting events of this scale are known to arouse hope in fans – a desire to see their teams win. Some people go on to invest too much emotion and high expectations. “Super fans” are at an elevated risk of emotional overinvestment that could make things go awry when failure strikes.

Scientists say sporting events put spectators, especially the ardent ones, under significant mental stress. Fans want to feel the pride of having their teams win and are on the edge to see that happen.

The human “fight or flight” response mechanism is activated in fans before a match kicks off and remains on for its duration. The primordial response enables anticipation and puts you in the mood to respond to threats. This is also what happens when watching a World Cup match.

There is a link between stress and higher levels of certain neurotransmitters, including adrenaline. These chemicals increase the output of the cardiovascular system.

Elevated adrenaline levels normally last for a few minutes when faced with dangers. However, this can continue for a longer time with a soccer match, which usually lasts 90 minutes plus extra time.

Failure and disappointment can be overwhelming for some fans.

Increased cardiac activity from higher adrenaline levels may lead to artery blockage due to the effect on plaques or fat deposits. This plays a part in cases of myocardial infarction (MI), which most people know as a heart attack.

A study done during the 2006 World Cup in Germany revealed a 2.66-time increase in cardiac emergencies on days when the country’s national team played. In a similar vein, a 25 percent increase in heart attack cases was reported when England was beaten by Argentina in a penalty shoot-out back in 1998.

Eye Strokes

Chances are that you have never heard of this before. Also known as anterior ischemic optic neuropathy, an eye stroke is one of the common causes of vision loss. People with cardiovascular disease are at a higher risk of this condition.

In 2014, researchers compared eye stroke cases treated during the World Cup of that year and four weeks afterward to those handled during a similar period in the previous year. They noted a rise in retina vein occlusion cases.

Read Also: Sports Injuries Latest Facts: Types, Causes, Prevention, Relief and Treatment

Unhealthy Lifestyle

Another thing is that sporting events of this magnitude often encourage unhealthy or risky behavior among fans, including:

  • Binge drinking – Alcohol and sporting events typically go hand in hand, but this is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and other conditions. Many fans like to drink while watching matches – Qatar recently made headlines for banning alcohol in some areas for the 2022 World Cup. If people at the stadium can’t drink, those watching at home are not under such restrictions, however.
  • Unhealthy eating – Keeping the mouth busy is one of the ways by which people try to maximize the experience when watching sports or movies. Apart from drinks, people also keep snacks at hand. The problem here is that the choices are usually poor, including items such as fried or processed foods and sugary drinks. Improper snacking can be harmful to health.
  • Reduced activity – Just as the screen is the focus when watching a movie, the field and players are at the center of attention at the World Cup. Almost everybody else is a spectator. Essentially, the activity of those watching drops to zero or almost so. Fans sit (or may lie down at home) for long periods and low activity levels may be harmful to health.
  • Poor sleep – If care is not taken, you may find your sleeping pattern disrupted during the World Cup. This is especially so if the playing times fall in the late hours or early morning hours in your region. Insufficient sleep can weaken your immunity and leave you exposed to multiple health problems.

Behaviors fueled or encouraged by the World Cup – including smoking – may have other unpleasant effects. For instance, binge drinking and emotional response to one’s team losing could lead to fights, road accidents, domestic violence, or unsafe sex. There is research to prove some of these.

In extreme cases, some people may attempt to take their own lives. Researchers have reported spikes in suicide rates following a defeat at the World Cup. As an example, a study showed that more young women in Tehran were admitted to hospitals for taking poison during the period of the 2014 World Cup. The Iranian team was dumped out of the tournament in the knockout stages.

Go Easy

The World Cup is supposed to be a competition that brings people together. It is an opportunity for people of all races and countries to come together and relate in a friendly atmosphere.

Read Also: Research Indicates Indoor Sports Athletes May Have Weaker Bones

You should see it more as a form of entertainment and not a do-or-die affair. There is really nothing to lose – maybe except (imagined) pride – if your team does not win. There is no need to harm yourself or anyone. Don’t get carried away.

Some quick tips:

  • Aim to replace unhealthy snacks, such as fried or fatty foods, with fruits, low-fat popcorn, or other healthier alternatives.
  • Avoid alcohol and sugary drinks or, at least, keep a close tab on your consumption.
  • Drink plenty of water to provide adequate hydration.
  • Stretch and walk around often – say, every 30 minutes – while watching matches.
  • Create enough time to have quality, adequate sleep.




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