Soccer is the British equivalent of American football or Canadian hockey when it comes to fan dedication, enthusiasm, and total immersion in the game. But until the 1998 World Cup, the extent of health issues associated with the game were restricted to scraped knees, bruises, and a black eye or two in the stands. Little did anyone suspect that soccer penalty shoot-outs would soon be considered a major cause of heart attacks.
A study reported in the British Medical Journal, focused on hospital admissions before, during and after the 1998 World Cup match between Britain and Argentina. Cases included were myo-cardio infarctions, car accidents and attempted suicides. For comparison purposes, the 1998 results were then measured against admissions before, during and after the 1997 and 1999 events.
The final game of the 1998 World Cup pitting Argentina against
Britain, was highlighted by a penalty shoot-out. That day, and for two days afterwards, the study noted a 25% jump in the rate of heart attack victims admitted to hospital. There was no change in statistics for the other admissions.
A whopping 24 million viewers made the World Cup of 1998, the most viewed television program for that year. Researchers conducting the study concluded that people simply could not stand the stress and tension of the penalty shoot-out.