Its only a game

The last time England had their hands on the football World Cup was back in 1966. For a country that is home to some of the highest paid footballers in the Premier league, this is slightly embarrassing. For its fans even more so.

Every four years this nation of footballer lovers sits down in front of their televisions to be taken on another emotional roller coaster ride. To some, football is life or death . . literally. 

If you have ever worked a shift during a large sporting event, you know that as soon as the whistle blows, this country grinds to a halt and all eyes turn towards a television. Time is suspended as we wait for the final whistle to blow. In the ninety minutes it takes to play the  beautiful game, ever overweight middle aged England supporter will have undertaken their own private cardiac stress test. The style of play by the English football team will ensure that every single emotional responce is tested. A penalty shoot out could be a death sentence.

During the 1998 World cup, England found themselves in a penalty shoot out against Argentina to progress to the quarter finals. David Beckham had been dismissed earlier on in the second half after a silly kick at Diego Simeone that saw him ineligible to take a shot at goal. Argentina would win 4 to 3 on penalties resulting in an increase in the admissions of acute myocardial infractions to hospitals in England by 25% over the hours following the game. In a paper by Carrol et al. (2002) Douglas Carrol noted that there where 55 extra admissions for acute myocardial infarction in the two days following the Argentinian match than that expected on a non event day. This increase was even more significant than admissions for stroke during the same time period.


Two years earlier the Dutch had found themselves in a similar position in the quarter finals against France at the Euro’s 96. The penalty shoot out witnessed by 9.8 million Dutch television viewer would be followed by an increase in acute myocardial infarction and stroke admissions. On the day of the match , Witte (2000) noted that there was an increase in myocardial infarction or stroke mortality in males, greater than that in the  female Dutch population .


Bethier and Boulay (2002) suggest that being on the winning side could be more beneficial. They in contrast to their English and Dutch colleagues observed a drop in recorded acute myocardial infractions in French men on the day they won the 98 World Cup . . . go figure. They suggest that the euphoria of victory may have some influence on this outcome. Can you imagine the impact a win would have on the average English football supporter nevermind the juberlation of progressing to the next stage. We can only dream.



Carroll D, Ebrahim S, Tilling K, Macleod J,  Davey Smith G (2002) “Admissions for myocardial infarction and World Cup football: database survey” BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (accessed June 2018 )


Berthier F, Boulay F (2002) “”Lower myocardial infarction mortality in French men the day France won the 1998 World Cup of football” BMJ Heart,  (accessed June 2018)

Witte D, Bots M, Hoes A, Grobbee D (2000) “Cardiovascular mortality in Dutch men during 1996 European football championship :longitudinal population study”  BMJ, (accessed June 2018)

Comments are closed.