Dr. Mitch Shulman: How watching the Canadiens play for the Cup can affect your health

Beyond the risk of a heart attack, there are new dangers related specifically to our present COVID-19 situation.

A study published a few years back in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology reinforces something that most of us have come to accept as a fact — watching the Habs play can be hazardous to your health.

In this study they demonstrated that heart rates soared whenever there was a scoring opportunity for either team, and especially throughout overtime. It made no significant difference if you were a hard-core fan or not. With no tongue in cheek, the authors advised doctors to warn their patients who were at risk for heart attacks about the danger; to tell them to try to take it easy during the games; and, not to ignore symptoms of a heart attack that might be triggered by the game. Reasonable precautions especially now.

Beyond the risk of a heart attack, there are new dangers related specifically to our present COVID-19 situation. The Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is spreading widely in Ontario. With the opening of our border to our neighbouring province it’s only a matter of time until more cases of this variant turn up in Quebec. Not only is this variant more contagious and more likely to get you hospitalized, it can also present with symptoms more like a cold (fever, stuffed / blocked nose, cough, muscle aches and pains) than we’ve come to expect with classic COVID-19. So even if you’ve been vaccinated get tested if you have symptoms. That way you can isolate properly to stop the spread of the illness.

For a cold, you would wait a day after the fever is gone without medication and your symptoms have settled down. For COVID-19, it’s a minimum of 10 days and at least 24 hours without fever. With bars now allowed to stay open until 2 a.m. and less rigorous enforcement of distancing and masking rules, the very people least likely to be vaccinated are most likely to be at a bar watching our beloved Bleu Blanc Rouge battle, setting us up for clusters of outbreaks of COVID-19.

Dr. Mitch Shulman: How watching the Canadiens play for the Cup can affect your health

Similarly, the misguided request to open up the Bell Centre to more in-house spectators runs the risk of creating a perfect environment for the virus to spread.

Similarly, the misguided request to open up the Bell Centre to more in-house spectators runs the risk of creating a perfect environment for the virus to spread. Remember that shouting without a mask spreads the virus and I can’t think of a better environment for that to happen than being in the Bell Centre for a Habs game, or at a bar watching them. Alcohol will reduce our self-protection instincts even more.

The key to watching the Habs safely in the time of COVID-19 is not only to take it easy during the games, but also to vaccinate everyone as quickly as possible with two doses of any COVID-19 vaccine. Until we get significant numbers of those gathering at the Bell Centre or at a bar vaccinated, we run a real risk of allowing all our hard earned gains to be frittered away. Go Habs, Go!

Dr. Mitch Shulman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at McGill Medical School as well as an Attending Physician in the Emergency Department of the McGill University Health Centre. He’s also the CJAD AM 800 Medical Consultant.

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