The Science Behind Popular Football Myths

The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia is the biggest tournament for the single most popular sport on Earth, and it is the first ever to be held in Eastern Europe.

As the World Cup takes the planet by storm, here are some popular football myths and the science that goes behind them.

The Myth about Good Looks

Research suggests that attractive people tend to be more successful. Does this apply to football players as well? Apparently not.

A recent study shows that the more attractive the player, the worse the performance. Unless of course if most of the team members are attractive. In that case, it would lead to better performance.

This also suggests that attractiveness can be an advantage or a hindrance. It is interesting to note that the collective power of good looks has the opposite effect to that of an individual’s good looks.

Fast Players Are Born That Way

In football, speed is crucial.

You may have heard the saying, “you can’t teach speed.” Perhaps it is predetermined whether you have it or not. Well, that is not true.

While genetic qualities are somewhat vital in sports, speed is a complex motor skill that involves both motor control and force production capabilities. These can be taught and improved through coaching and training.

While soccer players such as Ronaldo and Messi are undoubtedly speedy, their training must have played a huge part in their motor skills and capabilities.

Watching the World Cup Can Cause a Heart Attack

This is unfortunately true.

A study in the Californian Journal of Cardiology found that people’s pulses went up by 75% while watching a hockey game on television, and by 110% when watching it in person. This equates to the cardiac stress experienced during vigorous exercise.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that “viewing a stressful soccer match more than doubles the risk of an acute cardiovascular event”.

Spikes in heart attack rates have been witnessed among fans after World Cup matches or penalty shoot-outs. A study of 4,279 German patients found that during 6 of Germany’s 7 World Cup matches in 2006, there was a sharp increase in reported heart problems.

However, other factors may contribute to the cause of a heart attack such as the lack of sleep, excessive drinking, and forgetting to take prescribed medication when distracted by the match.


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