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Vancouver Canucks fans watch the Stanley Cup 2011 Finals Game 6 Vancouver Canucks vs. Boston Bruins on June 13, 2011 in Downtown Vancouver, Canada

Any Ottawa Senators fan would be pardoned for having the occasional spike in their heart rate last night, as the team squandered the lead as Washington Capitals’ superstar Alexander Ovechkin’s third-period hat trick powered a come-from-behind victory in the first game of the 2017-2018 season.

Such dramatic occurrences on NHL ice could be behind cardiac stress – and potentially adverse events, according to a new study in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.

The study showed an average 92 percent increase in heart rate of Montreal Canadiens fans in front of the TV and in seats watching live on home ice at the Bell Centre, they report.

The study was designed and conducted by a pair of secondary school students in Montreal, Leia Khairy and Roxana Barin, at the Royal West Academy. (The lead author was Paul Khairy, a cardiologist at the Montreal Heart Institute at the University of Montreal).

The investigators surveyed the 20 fans before the game – and then watched their heart rate during pivotal events down on the ice, using Holter monitors.

Heart rates increased by 75 percent while watching on TV, and 110 percent while watching in-person, they conclude. The live game brought an amount of cardiac stress equivalent to vigorous exercise, they add.

The biggest heart spikes came during key moments: overtime, scoring opportunities for and against, as well as shorthanded opportunities. Also bringing a quicker pulse were powerplays, and fights.

An accompanying editorial in the Canadian journal warns fans to take it easy, lest the game they love cause a major health problem due to a fluke goal or a bad penalty call.

“As outlined, watching an exciting hockey game might trigger a CV event in an individual at risk,” write David Waters, and Stanley Nattel, two doctors who authored the editorial. “The danger is particularly high in the arena and at dramatic moments such as overtime. At-risk patients should be warned about potential CV symptoms and should be instructed to seek medical attention promptly if symptoms develop.”

Previous studies have shown the increased in heart rates from sports fans. Some have even tied those heart effects to population-level health outcomes. For instance, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found the incidence of cardiac events increased 2.66 times that for a group of men in the greater Munich area on the days the German national team played important games in the World Cup in 2006.

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