Thrilling playoff run can strain fans' health, doctor warns

Thrilling playoff run can strain fans' health, doctor warns

With Ottawa Senators fans coming back down to earth after a thrilling double-overtime playoff win on the weekend, an Ottawa doctor wants fans to be mindful of the stress that can build during intense hockey games and long playoff runs.

A recent survey by the ticket-selling website StubHub found that 33 per cent of Canadians find watching the Stanley Cup playoffs stressful, and that can lead to loss of sleep and increased alcohol consumption, among other health factors.

Dr,. Elizabeth Shouldice, an emergency room doctor at the Queensway-Carleton Hospital in Ottawa, says she's actually tended to patients who have come in because of medical issues related to watching sports.

"It's not common to have people who are actually suffering chest pain, or having really serious medical problems because of stress. But certainly that is possible, and that is something that I've seen over the years," Shouldice told host Hallie Cotnam on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

"I've seen a couple of patients come in, ending up on a cardiac monitor from watching their favourite team."

Thrilling overtime games

The Senators aren't exactly making it an easy and relaxing playoff run for their fans. Four of their six first-round games against Boston went to overtime, and their second-round Game 2 win against the New York Rangers on Saturday came in double overtime.

Longer, more intense games mean some fans are drinking more booze. The StubHub poll also showed that 21 per cent of Ottawa residents drink more alcohol than normal when the Sens are in the playoffs.

As always, Shouldice says moderation is key.

"I think the bottom line is we need to pace ourselves. We need to be really mindful of these behaviours that we're engaging in. This isn't the Super Bowl, that it's one afternoon," she said. 

"I'm not going to begrudge anyone a Golden Palace egg roll and a pint. But we need to make sure that this isn't becoming a daily habit, a daily behaviour as you get closer and closer to the end of the playoffs."

'Turn it off and do something else'

And those overtime games can sometimes go late into the night and cut into sleep schedules, so Shouldice says sometimes it's best just to wait until morning to find out the score.

"If things are interfering with sleep, if you're finding yourself really getting stressed about the game, perhaps it's time to turn it off and do something else," she said.

But as a big Sens fan herself, she admits she's also guilty of some of those habits.

"The other night my husband came up and found my phone streaming the game in my bed, and I was asleep next to it. So certainly I think I'm guilty of these behaviours," Shouldice said.

She adds that it's important to keep perspective and moderate those potentially detrimental behaviours, especially deep into the playoffs.

"I fully expect the Senators to be playing hockey in June. That's my hope, and I think the hope of a lot of hockey fans here in town."