How cheering on your favorite team could cause you harm

DURHAM (WTVD) -- With football and basketball season both in full swing, there are plenty of games to keep local sports fans busy this time of year. But, as you're cheering your team on to victory (or perhaps yelling a few choice words at the officials) keep in mind that doing so can potentially cause serious damage, from feeling a little horse to something worse.

"We can get all kinds of benign lesions such as polyps, nodules, cysts. You can even scream so loud that you burst a small blood vessel on your vocal cord and have a vocal fold hemorrhage," outlines Rupali Shah, MD with the UNC Dept. of Otolaryngology.

Dr. Shah sees this more often than you might think, as she specializes in voice and swallowing disorders. She says experiencing this kind of "phonotrauma," or abuse of the voice, can cause long term problems.

So how do you know it's something serious?

"If you have persistent hoarseness for 2-3 weeks, pain with talking, sore throat, excessive weakness of your voice where it's getting tired throughout the day and you've had that for 2-3 weeks, we recommend you see a physician," she explains.

Treatments for voice disorders range from surgery to speech therapy. But, as is usually the case, prevention is the best medicine. Dr. Shah suggests practicing good vocal hygiene, which includes avoiding irritants such as smoking, second hand smoke, and eating spicy, fatty, acidic foods, and drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated.

"Avoid bad vocal habits, so screaming over people. If you're in an environment where there's a lot of background noise and you have to really work to talk over people, be cognizant of that.

So, instead of screaming support for your favorite team, she suggests sticking to clapping, stomping, or using noisemakers instead.

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