Tech & Science

Watching Puppy Soccer Is Doctor-Approved World Cup Stress Relief

On Tuesday, England’s soccer team will fight for their first quarter-final World Cup match since the 2006 tournament in Germany. To combat the stress and health risks associated with the high stakes game, doctors have prescribed puppies as a antidote.

British medical professionals have partnered with pet food company Freshpet to livestream a soccer match between young English bulldogs, led by Harry Kanine, and Maltese Bichons. Freshpet will stream the 90-minute puppy soccer match at 2 p.m. EST, the same time England plays Colombia in the World Cup, on its Facebook page and website.  

The match, health experts hope, will assuage some of the soccer game-incited health risks like elevated blood pressure and heart rate.

“For most people, feeling the emotion and the hormonal and neurochemical response is exhilarating, but for those with certain existing medical problems, these changes can pose a real risk to their health,” British physician Jeff Foster told Reuters.

The link between heart risk and soccer fandom is long-studied. Watching soccer matches can elevate blood pressure and heart rate to potentially unsafe levels, British researchers found. In the study, spectators’ heart rates reached maximum levels when their team scored a goal and could remain elevated for as long as 90 minutes, evidence that the emotional stress of watching sports can take a physiological toll.

In extreme cases, sports-inflicted stress can be fatal, particularly during the World Cup. A Swiss study found heart attack deaths increased by 60 percent during the 2002 World Cup compared to one year earlier. In 2006, the rate of cardiac emergencies in men was more than three times higher during the World Cup, and almost 50 percent of cardiac arrests occurred on days patients’ favored teams played.

GettyImages-656120138 An English bulldog puppy is licked by an older dog in March 2017 in New York, New York. Ahead of England's World Cup match against Colombia on Tuesday, pet food company Freshpet will stream a puppy soccer game to reduce viewers' sports-induced stress. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

Though the British game hopefully won’t stop anyone’s heart, Foster said it’s likely die-hard fans will see stress manifest.

“As this is such a key moment for England footballers, so I expect to see an increase in patients,” he said.

The “power of cute” may be the best cure: viewing videos of animals like birds and primates reduced blood pressure and heart rate in a 2005 study, and Japanese researchers found exposure to images of puppies and kittens narrowed participants’ focus and allowed them to concentrate on the task at hand.

Editor's Pick