Here's Why Hospital Visits Surge After the Super Bowl

"Super Bowl syndrome" finds football fans pushing pause on medical issues until after the big game.

A man filling out a form at the reception desk of a medical office.
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For football fans, the Super Bowl is sort of the Holy Grail of sports fandom—required viewing of the utmost importance. In other words, for many people, there's not a thing in the world that could prevent them from watching the big game—and that includes medical emergencies. It's because of this unmitigated dedication to the annual sporting event that every year hospitals around the country see the impact of what is known as "Super Bowl syndrome." Essentially, people put off any medical problems they might be faced with until the moment the game is over, at which point hospital visits begin to surge.

"It's interesting because you will definitely see a drop in volume during game time, maybe even prior to game time," Jay Goldstein, medical director of the emergency department at Memorial Hospital in Georgia, a local Fox affiliate in 2019. "I guess after they watch the game, now they decide it's time to come to the emergency department."

The data on this phenomenon goes back quite a ways. According to a 1994 study published in The Journal of Emergency Medicine, emergency room admissions from 1988 to 1992 were found to be "significantly lower" during Super Bowl days than they were the rest of the year. And in a 2013 paper published in Applied Radiology, radiologist Stuart E. Mirvus of the University of Maryland School of Medicine noted his fascination with the impact Super Bowl XLVII had on patient visits: "I was amazed at how low the study volume was at all 3 hospitals I was covering that Sunday evening."

What's more, Super Bowl syndrome doesn't seem to be entirely unique to the Super Bowl alone, according to 2009 paper published in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine. After analyzing emergency room visits during 782 sports games, emergency medicine doctor David Jerrard found there to be fewer male visitors on days that professional football games were played than there were on non-game days—approximately 18 visitors and 27 visitors, respectively.

So what kind of cases do doctors see once the Super Bowl is over? Naturally, many of them are alcohol-related, though not exclusively. "You also see the general run-of-the-mill chest pains, the strokes… people with cough, cold, and congestion," Goldstein says.

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