A Winning Diversion

The benefits of being a sports fan for those with chronic pain

By Lucey Wright, M.S.

It’s the start of Saints season (otherwise known as football season) and the weather is soon to cool down, which means that many New Orleanians are beginning to give up their summer heat hibernation to head to the Dome, over to friends’ houses to watch away games, or to local high school or college football stadiums. Whether watching from the living room, cheering from the stands, or playing down on the turf, football season is an exciting time for anyone who enjoys the sport. For those with chronic pain, being a football fan has some surprising benefits.

Connections with others

Remember how full of brotherly love the whole city Make friends with your fellow Who Dats! felt when the Saints won the Super Bowl? Whether it is for the Saints, LSU, Tulane, or a local high school team, being a fan bonds you with others who support the same team. Maintaining strong relationships with others may extend your life, as people with social connections have been shown to have higher survival rates from cancer and are less susceptible to illnesses such as the common cold.

These human connections can also play a positive role in managing or recovering from chronic pain. A short conversation about a recent game with a random stranger in a Brees jersey can give your day a boost. A weekly meeting with friends to watch the game can provide something to look forward to and much needed support. Sharing a common interest, like football, with your spouse can strengthen your bond and encourage closeness, as long as your partner isn’t a Falcons fan.

Physical Health

The average football fan is more active while watching a game, even from home, than while watching a regular television show. Clapping, yelling, and cheering burn calories and help you stay active.

Actually heading out to the game can be even better for you, as it adds in walking from the car and up stadium stairs. Keeping up a moderate level of activity while in chronic pain is often recommended by interventional pain medicine doctors, as it can help you maintain your weight and avoid other health problems.

However, don’t push yourself too hard on game day. Dr. Nomen Azeem, Interventional Pain and Sports Medicine Physician, has some recommendations for making it a safe, fun outing.

Distraction

Anything that takes your mind off of your pain for a while can be a welcome reprieve. It is best for those experiencing chronic pain to continue taking part in enjoyable activities as often as possible. Your pain may become less difficult when concentrating on the game or celebrating a touchdown. Even if your team loses, try to look forward to the next game. Miracles do happen. Just remember that the Saints used to be the ‘Aints, and it’s not likely to be another 41 years between Super Bowl wins this time.

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