CPIT rugby research

News News & events

19 Oct 2011


If you feel your pulse quicken when the All Blacks take a five-metre scrum you’re not alone. There may be a link between watching rugby and heart troubles such as irregular heartbeats or heart attacks, says CPIT sports science programme leader and The Zone Manager Dr Peter Olsen.

Peter is conducting research into heart rate and blood pressure changes while watching rugby games in conjunction with cardiologist Associate Professor John Elliott from the University of Otago Christchurch. The timing with the Rugby World Cup is no accident. Peter’s volunteers are strapping on monitors before sitting down to watch games at stadiums or in their own lounge rooms.

“I was reading literature on the soccer world cup and there was research indicating that there was an increase in cardiac events during the event. But the research is conflicting and no one has done similar research in rugby or into the difference between watching the game live or on TV, so that’s what attracted my interest,” Peter says.

“It appears that if your team is playing there is a higher risk of heart attack. If you are hosting a tournament there is a greater risk and if the game is close there is greater risk as well. Factors such as diet are also being assessed because dietary habits can change during the World Cup, and probably not for the best either.”

The research will also assess the national database for cardiac events and look for any differences in national rates when the All Blacks play.

Peter has experienced the effect of All Blacks fever. “Yes when they played Australia in Hong Kong and it was a very close game, I felt my heart rate go up.”

An unexpected outcome of the research has been the chance to observe how people’s heart rates change during aftershocks – as happened prior to a recent quarter final. One participant experienced an increase of 30 beats per minute. The question is whether the All Blacks can beat that?