Jan 31, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Washington Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth (30) makes a save on Detroit Red Wings center Darren Helm (43) during a shoot out at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Fan Health And Hockey: This Red Wings Season

Apr 5, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty (67) plays the puck off the air against Detroit Red Wings goalie Jonas Gustavsson (50) and defensemen Brendan Smith (2) and Niklas Kronwall (55) during the third period at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Fans joke with each other that their  health takes a serious nosedive when it comes to watching intense hockey games. We say that penalty kills take days off our hearts. We reminisce on the days when players like Dominik Hasek gave us heart attacks on every defensive zone play.

Well… there’s some truth to that. In a study done by the University of Phoenix, it was found that watching a high-stakes game has a physical affect on a person. Of course, this was given in context of the NCAA March Madness, but it transcends to all sports.

This entire Red Wings season has consisted of high-stakes games. From the inconsistency of the team to the constant injuries to the injuries on top of those constant injuries to consistently being on the cusp of making the playoffs, there’s barely been a game we can watch for sheer enjoyment. There’s always something hanging in the balance.

How have we fared this season on the roller coaster of emotion? Well, that depends on what some of the effects might be. Let’s start with what exactly the study claims:

“[Watching a game can prompt] a 300-400 percent increase in blood flow pumped out of the heart,” Vicki Greenberg, nursing program manager for the University of Phoenix told the Phoenix Forward. “Because the heart is pumping more quickly, and with more force, this increased pressure can cause people with high blood pressure issues to experience damage to the interior lining of their blood vessels.”

This sounds terrifying. And completely accurate. How many times have we sat on the edge of our seats during a penalty kill in the last five minutes of the game with a one-goal lead and realized once it was killed off that we haven’t breathed once in those two minutes? We put our hands to our hearts once that final buzzer goes and realize, as we tweet our relief, that our heart rate is twice as fast as normal.

It’s not just physical, either. The study also states, “There is also the ever-present risk that a heartbreaking loss will induce acute situational depression.”

Oh man…is that ever true. My senior year of high school describes this perfectly. I was going through a ton of crap (who doesn’t in high school) and my mood literally depended on how the Red Wings played the previous night. So that was a fun February for everyone around me (when we went 4-8-2).

How many times have we watched our Twitter feeds blow up when the Red Wings have blown a lead and lost the game? Or gone to a shootout and lost? We crumble into chaos. We blame anyone and everything and we hate the team for what they do to us.

Of course, there’s no time for relaxation right now either. The Red Wings need three points in their next four games to secure one of the two wildcard spots to keep their playoff stream going.

Looking at the schedule, it’s easy to assume this will be a piece of cake–Buffalo Tuesday night, Pittsburgh Wednesday, Carolina Friday, and St. Louis on Sunday. The three points can come easily from Buffalo and Carolina. Of course, we’ve thought that before and the “easy” teams have crushed our hopes and dreams. The Red Wings can’t keep relying on the teams behind them to continue losing (okay, maybe the Maple Leafs…). Even if they secure the wildcard spot, do you want them to sit back and take it easy? No.

And then the question comes down to would we rather face the Boston Bruins or the Pittsburgh Penguins? How we feel about those particular teams can also make our blood pressure blow through the roof.

There’s constantly been something this season keeping our heart rates up at an unhealthy level and mess with our moods. No one ever said this loving hockey thing would be easy, right?

When this season is all said and done, maybe we should all go for a physical to make sure everything is still okay. We’ve all come to terms that we lost our minds to this sport years ago, but there may be help for our hearts still.

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