Why the Super Bowl May Kill Grandmas in Denver

New research finds that local teams see dramatic flu death spike around the big game.

The citizens of Denver and Charlotte better brace themselves for an ass-kicking this weekend. While Newton and Manning fans hurl drunken slurs at their screens, a much more deadly battle will be going down: The war on the spreading flu virus, which researchers at Cornell discovered causes a spike in deaths in Super Bowl hometowns.

Looking at county-level data from 1974 to 2009, the researchers found that there was an 18 percent increase in flu-related deaths in people over age 65 in areas that are home to teams advancing to the Super Bowl when compared to regions with worse teams.

This isn’t all that surprising, if you consider that the NFL championship is really an excuse to cram a lot of people together in very small spaces.

Peyton Manning: The look he gives you when you don't cover you mouth when you cough.

Ezra Shaw/Getty

Look at it this way: The Super Bowl falls in the dead of winter, when influenza is making its way around our cold, weakened immune systems.

This year, people in Denver and Charlotte are going to do it up big, having friends over for Super Bowl celebrations or hitting up bars. These parties — where guests double-dip nachos, share drinks, lick their Buffalo-stained fingers after eating an estimated 1.3 billion wings (really), and yell into each others’ faces — are basically flu jacuzzis.

Cam Newton: Don't double-dip.

Getty/Thearon W. Henderson

The people who get hit the hardest are seniors, who are the least likely to successfully battle a flu infection once they’ve got it. Even though they might not be directly crushing beers with younger fans, transmission can happen indirectly. All it takes is an infected son coming home from a Super Bowl party to his old man to put his whole aging family at risk of flu-related death. Good one, son!

Of course, knowing the risks are higher can only help. Broncos and Panthers fans celebrating at home, take note: Wash your hands, don’t double dip (seriously, that’s gross), and if you’re already sick, do everyone a favor and watch from home.

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