- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 27, 2009

They choke. They sprain something. They forget to visit the restroom or attempt to open a beer bottle - with their teeth.

The Super Bowl has become such an intense, all-encompassing experience for the TV viewing public that fans are at risk of serious harm, right there in the family room. The couch can be a perilous place.

“I’ve seen a number of injuries, some fatal, occur on Super Bowl Sunday because people often pay more attention to the game than to their health and safety,” said Dr. Jeff Kalina, associate director of emergency medicine at the Methodist Hospital in Houston.

“The ER is usually busy after the game, and we expect it to be no different this Sunday,” he added.

Dr. Kalina has tended many memorable injuries among the distracted and enthusiastic. Fans choke on chicken bones. They leap to their feet at some pivotal moment - only to injure their backs. There are myriad stomach ailments from alcohol and junk food, and yes, a very drunk man once lost his teeth to a bottle, Dr. Kalina said.

And for some determined fans, “urinary retention” becomes a problem. They drink plenty, then put off a bathroom visit, resulting in a condition where the bladder gets so full that “muscles are not strong enough to generate a stream,” the physician noted.

“During most sporting events people will get up and use the restroom during the commercials and not have any problem,” Dr. Kalina said. “However, most of the time the commercials are the best part of the Super Bowl, so we have seen people who have to come in and have a catheter put in to relieve themselves.”

Does the Super Bowl prompt domestic violence against women? Researchers have debated whether violence increases during the big game ever since a 1993 report from a California legal center cited typical increases of 40 percent - prompting the press to coin the term “Abuse Bowl.”

By analyzing police reports in 14 cities, a 2005 report from Indiana University found otherwise: There was actually more violence during holidays like Christmas or Valentine’s Days than during the Super Bowl.

Dr. Kalina is not so convinced.

“There is a lot of testosterone flying around during the Super Bowl. You mix that with alcohol and underlying relationship problems and you have a recipe for disaster,” he said.

Some men do get agitated. One fan was so despondent after his team lost that he threw his television out the window of his third-floor apartment.

“Luckily, no one was on the street below,” Dr. Kalina said.

“People have to remember that the Super Bowl is just a game,” he added. “Don’t drink too much, don’t eat too much, and get up and go to the bathroom.”

And don’t yell too much, either. Fans have also been known to damage their vocal cords in the heat of the moment.

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