ER visits down during Red Sox playoff run

BOSTON -- Red Sox fever does not send people to the
hospital. In fact, it seems to have the opposite effect.

According to a study published Monday in the Annals of Emergency
Medicine, traffic in Boston-area emergency rooms significantly
slowed during last year's Red Sox championship games.

"I have no idea where the patients go, but they don't come into
the emergency room," said Dr. Alasdair Conn, the ER chief at
Massachusetts General Hospital, which was included in the study.

Ben Reis and John Brownstein, researchers at Children's Hospital
Boston, compared Neilsen television ratings with hospital traffic.

"We knew if we were looking for any public event that would
have an effect on health care utilization, it would have to be the
Red Sox championship games," Reis told The Boston Globe.

The pair used an ER surveillance system to track patient visits
last fall at a half dozen hospitals in metropolitan Boston, then
compared that with TV ratings for key Red Sox games.

They discovered that during the championship games, fans in
three of every five households were watching. At the same time,
emergency room visits dropped by about 15 percent when compared
with trends for ER visits on fall evenings.

Doctors and the study's authors suspect that when the Red Sox
are in the playoffs, patients who can defer an ER visit will do so.

"The heart attacks, the strokes, they will come no matter
what's going on," Conn said. "The patient with pneumonia, the
patient with an asthma attack will say, 'Maybe I can ride this out
at home."'

There was no evidence of a surge in ER visits immediately after
the game, Brownstein said.

Other big events also can slow ER visits, doctors said. Conn
said the emergency department turned quiet on Sept. 11, 2001.

"It's as if when they look at TV and see what's happening, they
say, 'My infected lung, it's not so bad,"' he said.