World Cup fans suffer with their hearts on their sleeves

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The World Cup always tugs at fans’ heartstrings. Sometimes it can pull too hard.

The latest incident of a World Cup fan suffering cardiac arrest occurred on Tuesday in São Paulo’s stadium as Brazil’s rival, Argentina, faced Switzerland.

A Brazilian man attending a June 28 game, in which the national team beat Chile in penalty kicks, had to leave the stadium and then suffered a heart attack, according to Globo news service’s G1 website.

Cardiologist Nabil Ghorayeb is monitoring cardiac events at nine hospitals in six cities the day before Brazil plays, on the day, and the day after. He is compiling data from an anticipated 6 000 patients, and expects the number of incidents to be “well above” those in the 2010 tournament.

“In the last World Cup, Brazil’s team didn’t excite the population in a rather evident way,” Ghorayeb said. “A very good team that loses causes much more cardiovascular damage due to the emotion of disappointment.”

While people link strong emotional reactions to heart attacks, doctors say the excitement and stress fans feel during a major sporting event may trigger sudden cardiac arrest, without warning or prior symptoms.

Higher heart-related deaths than typical were found among fans of the losing teams in past American football Super Bowls, researchers reported in 2011 in the journal Clinical Cardiology. – Bloomberg

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