Delaying Health Care for the Big Game

from ABC News: Delaying Health Care for the Big Game:

Sept. 23, 2005 — It’s down to the final play of the Super Bowl and you’re choking on a pretzel — what’s a sports fan to do?

You’re more likely to watch the game-winning kick than seek medical care, according to a new report.

Physicians at Children’s Hospital Boston, who collected data from emergency rooms in Boston during the Red Sox’s run to the World Series in October 2004, found that patient volume dipped significantly during the most important postseason contests.

The authors used the Nielsen television ratings to determine the magnitude of a sporting contest: the higher the rating, the more important they considered the game. The findings, published in today’s edition of Annals of Emergency Medicine, indicate that the games with the highest Nielsen television ratings — Game 4 of the World Series and Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, both of which were series-clinching contests for the Red Sox — were associated with lower emergency department volume than games with lower television viewership.

Based on their data, the authors believe that one can predict how busy an emergency room will be based on how "big" the game is. This does not come as a surprise to many emergency medicine physicians, who have found they see far fewer patients in their hospitals at times when there is a major sporting event being played.

Anecdotally, I do notice a slightly lower volume in our ED during Cowboys games, but not Rangers games.  I do know that a lot of the staff would like to be watching the "Big Games" they cited, like the ALCS or the Super Bowl, and we wonder, sometimes aloud, why someone would pick that time to bring their six months of abdominal pain to the ED.  Ahh, well.  At least there’s Tivo.


  1. Reading this study makes you wonder if it is the patients that are not coming into the ED, or if the providers are “triaging” the less acute patients, and waiting to see them until after the game so that the game can be watched in the break room.

  2. I can really relate to delaying treatment. I did just that in 1991. I was so sick I could hardly sit up, but I refused to go to the hospital until the Super Bowl ended, because I knew if I went I’d never see the end of the game. I was in the hospital for almost three weeks with severe pneumonia.