With the World Cup big kick-off just days away, a leading Leamington GP has revealed the effects of watching a game at home on TV can generate the same euphoria, excitement and exasperation experienced by Harry Kane and the Three Lions out on the pitch.
Dr Jeff Foster said supporters should prepare themselves to share the same highs and lows as the players, be wary of over-indulging in alcohol and insists those with weak or faint-hearts should be extra careful.
Fans’ heart rate can rocket when stress levels are high, from around 60 beats per minute at rest to around 130 bpm during games.
Dr Foster, from TFJ Private GP Services, which is based at the Nuffield Hospital in Leamington, said: “Football fans have such a close, sub-conscious connection with their team that it produces a powerful chemical reaction in their brain and body.
“Hormones such as adrenalin and endorphins are released and you have a huge energy surge even though you are maybe just sitting at home watching on TV.
“Incredibly, this surge is so big it is very similar to that experienced by the players who are actually taking part in the match.
“The adrenalin heightens awareness, it makes all your senses more active and highly vigilant as you develop a real focus, a tunnel vision on what’s about to happen.
“It’s also what causes palpitations, sweaty palms, anxiety and drives your heart rate up and down.
“Meanwhile, the endorphins, especially seratonin, make you feel really good, really positive and this is reinforced if things go well and so the feel-good factor can build up throughout the tournament if the team is doing well.
“When things don’t go well, the body stops pumping the endorphins and the lack of serotonin has the opposite effect.”
Adding alcohol to such a heady mix can cause problems, with Dr Foster urging moderation.
He said: “The problem with alcohol is that it is a depressant and is likely to lower your enjoyment of the game.
“The other problem is it’s also a dis-inhibitor, which helps lower your levels of restraint and self-control.
“You might not notice this if you are sitting at home on your own but if you are watching in a pub then it is easy for a pack mentality to develop and for everyone to be swept along by it – becoming more rowdy and noisy and sometimes worse.”
Those suffering, or recovering, from heart problems, angina or stress are urged to take extra care.
Dr Foster said: “You wouldn’t ask someone who’d just had a heart attack to go out for a run but watching a match can be just as bad.
“Your heart rate can go from 60 beats per minute at rest to something like 120/130 bpm during a match and that is the last thing you want.
“I remember at a previous World Cup, one patient of mine had suffered a heart attack while watching an England match but put off calling 999 until the game had finished.
“He was very sick indeed by that time but said he couldn’t tear himself away from the game.
“It was probably the adrenalin rush which got him through to the final whistle but he took a huge risk and clearly it’s not a gamble worth taking.”
The World Cup finals kick off in Russia on June 14, with England’s first group match on June 18 against Tunisia.
TFJ Private GP Services is based at the Nuffield Hospital in Old Milverton Lane, Leamington. For more information, visit www.tfjprivategp.co.uk or call 01926 436303.