Health watch: Sports Fandom

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Whether you're packing the Patty Center, or cramming on the couch, chances are you're rooting for a specific team.
Rhiannon Walker explores the science behind why fans can get so invested in a sport in this week's Health Watch.

Most anyone who watches sports is guilty of shouting "we won" after their team scores the winning points, when in fact all "we" did was watch.
So, why do people identify with their favorite teams so much, that they ride an emotional roller coaster with them, especially during the post season?
According to Psychiatrist Doctor Scott Bea of Cleveland Clinic, we actually have neurons in our brains that "play along" with the players.

Scott Bea; Psychiatrist at Cleveland Clinic>>"It's pretty wild; this actually happens a little bit more in males, but we can actually go on the same hormonal ride that the players are going on with one exception - we absolutely have no control in the outcome."

Doctor Bea says 'Fandom' likely starts at a young age, when parents or older siblings introduce the idea that it is 'our' team that represents 'us' and our city.
He says that especially during playoff time, fans have a surge of adrenaline and stress hormone, but because they cannot really influence the outcome, it can be quite taxing.
In general, Doctor Bea says that following a sports team can give people a great sense of belonging, even if it also comes with a little bit of intensity.
He goes on to say that much of the 'high' that is felt watching a favorite team, can be traced to the feel-good chemical- dopamine, which is the same reason people get a thrill from riding roller coasters.
Doctor Bea also says that when fans are in the spirit of togetherness, they might also be experiencing the release of Oxytocin, which is a bonding, compassionate chemical and even 'band wagon' fans can benefit from the rush.

Scott Bea; Psychiatrist at Cleveland Clinic>>"If you're a casual fan or not much of a fan, but now your team and your region is represented - oh, there's a chance to create really good brain chemistry; get drenched with those rewarding brain chemicals if we become a fan and get into the collective sense of belonging and victory."

Doctor Bea says that people gravitate towards the home team because they want to be a part of something, but it is important to keep it all in good fun, and remember that it won't be too devastating is your team loses, and it won't be life-changing if they win.
For this week's Health Watch, I'm Rhiannon Walker.