bp's science: the power of being a sports fan (v.1)

Football season means game day every Saturday at our house. Jess is a big football fan, and as a result, I am too. It probably helped that my mom was a big football fan herself. I've grown up on football and I have no doubt that Oliver will too. I like football. I enjoy the games. If we win, I'm very glad. If we lose, I'm bummed. But Jess just really LOVES football, so when I read an interesting tidbit on being a sports fan, it gave me some insight into his fandom.

According to scientists, avid sports fans release pent up stress, get a shot of self-esteem, and feel socially connected when they're watching a big game. In fact, one study found that men experience a 20 percent rise in testosterone levels after cheering there team to victory. -Marriott Alumni Magazine, stress.org

Jess and I talked about this. We found it interesting. Then he asked a follow-up question: "What if your favorite team loses? What happens to your body then?" It would seem like stress levels go up. And it's true, physical stress goes up. When you are watching a game, win or lose, your heart rate goes up during intense events. In fact, during the World Soccer Championship in Germany in 2006, scientists studied the occurrence of heart rhythm disturbances in emergency rooms. They found that during games that involved Germany's team, heart emergencies went up at the same frequency, regardless of whether the team won or lost.

So we learn that physical stress goes up regardless of victory. But my guess is that when you lose, your mental stress about the game does go up, but that kind of stress is very temporary, and can be let go within hours. (I see testable, thesis-type theorizing here...)

So what does this mean? From what I can gather, this tells us that supporting a team can lead to a decrease in mental stress (i.e. stress about life & work, not stress about the game which is much easier to let go) but at the same time, a possible increase in physical stress. And from the number of fans in the world and the amount of money that goes into organized sports, it appears that the decrease in mental stress is worth an increase in heart rate.


Trisha said...

next step: pick a winning team! My Aggies just seem to be a bad bet. I'm holding out for basketball.

Jess said...

Well, the Aggies beat BYU this year, so you have something to cheer about there. Although, beating BYU this year doesn't take much, it seems.

jo said...

Fascinating. No wonder I'm drawn to a game now and then. I've always enjoyed a good football game too, but that could just be because of the good memories. I'm thinking U of U game where I'm dressed for 32 degree weather and it turns out to be 60 degrees. Remember those?