Study: March Madness May Clinically Cause Madness

It’s the month of March, and that means the end of the basketball season is fast approaching. During this time of the year, it’s customary for any college sports fan to religiously watch the best collegiate teams in  America go head-to-head on the court. To accompany this viewing, many fans take it upon themselves to prepare a bracket. In fact, “bracketing” has become so popular among fans that contests between bracket predictions are becoming more and more prevalent throughout the country, especially on college campuses. From campus clubs to online communities, “bracketing tournaments” are now a popular way for fans to compete against one another to see who possesses the most knowledge (and luck) about the inner workings of college basketball. Unfortunately, the unpredictability of the tournament leaves many “bracketeers” in such a state of constant distress that it there is now proof that it can lead to serious health problems.

A recent case study conducted by MSU’s very own Health and Wellness Department found that participating in March Madness’ “bracketeering” can cause severe mental health problems. Andrew Stein, an on-staff physician at the student health clinic and the head of the study wholeheartedly condemns “bracketing,” claiming that it’s “extremely hazardous to one’s mental health, as the unpredictability of the tournament can lead to mental breakdowns.”

The study was conducted with four different pools of students. “All of the students involved had never participated in March Madness before,” said Stephanie Meyer, a graduate student in the MSU nursing program who volunteered to help mediate and organize the study. “We wanted students who didn’t have any prior knowledge on bracket strategy, or who had never experienced the high levels of stress that comes with bracketing.” One pool was a control, students who didn’t fill out a bracket. The second pool consisted of students who filled out a bracket, but didn’t participate in any kind of bracket tournament. The third pool were students who made brackets and were all involved in low level bracket tournaments.

“We decided that low-level bracket tournaments (LLBs) were ones that saw students place bets of small monetary value. Like the loser of the tournament, the person with the worst bracket accuracy percentage by the end of the tournament would buy the rest of the bracketeers a round of beer or something of that nature, nothing too crazy,” said Stein. “ The fourth pool of students were the high-level bracketeers (HLBs). These students were involved in tournaments that had pricey buy-in’s (minimum of $100), and a winner take all prize pool, thus the participants could potentially win large sums of money. This is the pool where the most interesting results were derived from.”

Students that were involved in the HLB displayed drastic psychological and physiological changes. In fact, the students at the top of the HLB bracket, those above 80 percent accuracy, and those who were least affected by the tournament still displayed abnormal amounts of stress and social introversion.

“It’s really amazing how a couple of upsets can trigger viewers into such intense forms of ontological breakdowns,” said Rachel Equestry, another on staff physician at the Health Clinic. “Over the course of the three weeks of this study, we saw some pretty drastic changes in behavior, from the severe lack of personal hygiene to a complete loss on the grasp of reality.”

The HLB students that were most affected by the tournament were the students who only had guessed one game correctly. The “groundlings” as they were referenced to in the study, displayed the most drastic changes out of all four pools of students. Stein believes that it has to do with “the unlikelihood of not getting more than one call correct, and the sheer crushing weight of disappointment had a detrimental effect on their mental health. Whatever the true cause is, we’ll need to conduct more research. As for now, everyone who chooses to create brackets needs to remember that safety is the most important step in having a successful bracket season.”
“Editors note: this article appeared in the March 31, 2016 edition of the Exponent, the “Excrement”. The edition is the annual April Fool’s edition of the paper. All articles are satire. For questions and comments please contact editor@exponent.montana.edu or (406)994-2224.”