Would you give up hockey to avoid a heart attack?

Much ado is being made today of a study purporting to show that the thrill of a hockey game may be bad for a guy’s heart. I say, is there a better way to go?

The study, published this week in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, studied fans of the Montreal Canadiens and the incidence of heart attacks following a team win.

It found a relationship between the number of heart attacks in men, but not women, after the team won. Heart attacks increased 40 percent in men under 55 after home game wins.

“Our study is the first to evaluate the association between local hockey games and admission rates for acute STEMI. Since the inauguration of the NHL in 1917, the Montreal Canadiens remains the team with the most Stanley Cup wins and is known for its extremely loyal and enthusiastic fan base. This historical role of the city of Montreal might explain in part the association between higher admission rates for STEMI,” said lead investigator Hung Q. Ly, MD, SM, interventional cardiologist at the Montreal Heart Institute, in a press release.

In the study, women were less likely to suffer a STEMI after a hockey game than men, despite the fact that prior research has shown women are more susceptible to mental stress-induced myocardial ischemia. “Previous studies have suggested that unhealthy behavioral changes including increased alcohol consumption, heavy and fatty meals, smoking, drug use, or sleep deprivation may have additive effects on the link between sporting events and increased cardiovascular risk in spectators,” noted Dr. Ly “Notably, among all demographic groups in our study, the highest proportion of obesity, dyslipidemia, and smoking was found in young males, pointing towards an increased risk behavior and unhealthy lifestyle in this subgroup.”

Another interesting finding is that winning games produced more heart attacks than losses. “Indeed, strong emotional response to events has been reported to increase the risk of cardiovascular events. In our study, the fact that game outcomes are likely unknown to the spectator until the end implies that emotional triggers at the end and/or after the match might impose a greater risk for vulnerable populations,” observed the team of investigators. “This hypothesis is further supported by the notion that significant increases in STEMI hospital admissions occurred one day after a game in our study, while no difference in admission rates were observed on match days.”

It suggested behavioral changes could change the outcome here, which is a nice way of saying either stop watching hockey or stop caring about it.

In either case, that brings up an old question: What’s the point of living if you can’t enjoy it?

  • Rob

    Seems to me that the only proper response to any suggestion that a person should give up hockey to lessen heart attack risk would be: “Puck you.”

    • I momentarily considered writing a headline with puck word play and decided not to.

  • Bob Sinclair

    Two things:
    One the study was of Montreal fans who are notoriously rabid about that franchise, up to and including riots over the team. Anything that involves this team would immediately increase the risk.
    Two, It seems to me that in the study the risk factors were not the hockey games per se, but rather other behavioral traits (smoking, obesity, etc). If thats the case, is it possible that the same results could be found for Cub fans? Patriot fans? Portland Timber fans?
    All of that said, I’d rather go because of hockey than anything else.

    • Initially, I thought that maybe it had something to do with staying up late to watch games but in that scenario — and yours too, actually — it doesn’t explain why wins would appear to be a factor, but not losses. I would think it would be just the opposite. Otherwise, the takeaway (see what I did there?) is “happiness is unhealthy for your heart.”

  • Nick Rocks


  • Reminds me of the warning on those TV commercials hawking male impotence drugs – “Check with your doctor to be sure you are healthy enough to have sex.” Maybe have a similar warning to out-of-shape dudes about watching hockey?

  • ec99

    I’m a great hocky fan, as my avatar reveals. And I had a heart attack, not due to hockey but the cards my father dealt me, who died of one at 62, and gave my brother one at 58. I survived. Still love hockey. Am on a bunch of pills a day. Would love to see the Wild do well, but if they don’t, i won’t lose any sleep.

  • Brian Simon

    Once again, I am amazed at the degree to which professional sports drive some people’s lives. And deaths, it would seem.

  • KTFoley

    Coffee, sunshine, cheeseburgers, watching thunderstorms on the front porch. Fast or slow, these moments of life enjoyment are all gonna kill me.

    Winning-hockey-heart-attack is neither the best nor worst way to go.