Burns, bites and bruises: Super Bowl Syndrome

Be prepared for Super Bowl-related emergencies, from avocado mishaps to cardiac arrest

The Omicron surge is finally beginning to wane, and EMS and emergency rooms are seeing more traditional patients and fewer COVID-19 cases. But even as we experience a slight dip in pandemic patients, another event has ERs across Texas on alert: Super Bowl LVI.  

Each year, the Super Bowl is one of the highest-rated events on television, and fans get together to watch the game. That means grilling, slicing, eating, yelling, screaming, emotional highs and lows, and, of course, drinking. After two years of pandemic restrictions, it is anticipated that there will be a surge of Super Bowl parties, and emergency rooms are bracing for many of those revelers to become patients. 

Sometimes referred to as “Super Bowl Syndrome,” many medical emergencies tend to surge after the big game. Whether someone has burned themselves on the grill, received a dog bite because of all that yelling, or taken a fall after one-too-many, ERs see a spike in patients shortly after the Lombardi trophy has been hoisted and the MVP has announced they're going to Disney World. 

Here are some of the major results of Super Bowl Syndrome you may expect to respond to:

  • Overeating. All those hot dogs, burgers and nachos add up. According to one study, researchers found an increase in post-Super Bowl overeating emergencies, such as intestine-related issues or food impaction in the esophagus. Patients tended to not only eat more often overall during the Super Bowl, but portion size increases significantly as well. 911 and ERs also experience a post-Super Bowl uptick in patients suffering severe abdominal pain and gallbladder attacks due to the extra helpings of fatty or spicy foods. 
  • Lacerations. The dreaded guacamole cut is a staple of Super Bowl Sunday. According to a 2019 study published in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, as avocado consumption has increased, so too have guacamole-related injuries. The study found that between 1998 and 1997, over 50,000 people went to the ER due to an avocado-slicing mishap. Super Bowl Sunday is arguably our most avocado-centric day, with over 160 million pounds consumed during Super Bowl LIII.
  • Drunk driving. The hours after the Super Bowl are among the most dangerous times to be on the road because of increased drunk driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 36% of all fatal motor vehicle accidents on Super Bowl Sunday were connected to alcohol. The “New England Journal of Medicine” found a 41% increase in the average number of traffic fatalities following the broadcast. In fact, the period immediately after the Super Bowl is more dangerous than driving at any time on New Year's Eve. Expect MVCs, and be extra cautious while responding and transporting this Sunday. 
  • Cardiac complications. Super Bowl Sunday is one of the biggest binge-drinking days of the year. In addition to hangovers, falls, alcohol poisoning, DWIs and injuries from traffic collisions, heavy drinking also raises the risk of atrial fibrillation. A new study from researchers at the University of California San Francisco found an association between increased drinking and hospital visits for AF. 

    Disturbingly, the study also showed that binge drinking is linked to new-onset AF. According to the CDC, AF is a significant cause of stroke and contributes to over 150,000 U.S. deaths each year. About 12 million people in the U.S. have AF, and the numbers have steadily climbed over the past two decades.

    Cardiac arrest also appears to increase during the Super Bowl. After the 2008 Patriots-Giants Super Bowl, research showed that deaths attributed to heart attacks increased nearly 25% in Massachusetts in the eight days after the game! In 2009, statistics showed that deaths from heart attacks dropped by 46% in Pittsburgh following their victory over the Cardinals. 

Super Bowl Syndrome is real. EMTs, paramedics and ER physicians have seen injuries of all kinds on Super Bowl Sunday, and we're again preparing for another busy and challenging weekend. Stay safe on the roadways, and encourage your communities to take extra precautions, not an extra hot dog or beer, to ensure they won’t need your services.

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