The show Jeopardy! apologized this week after a question on a recent episode sparked backlash among viewers. The question contained an outdated term for postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), a nervous system condition that causes an increased heart rate.
The term appeared in a prompt on the show, which read, “Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome is also known as Grinch syndrome because this organ is too small.” On the show the correct answer was “What is the heart?” But the use of the term “Grinch syndrome” was met with criticism online.
“Hey @Jeopardy no one with any credibility calls POTS ‘Grinch Syndrome,’” the nonprofit organization Dysautonomia International wrote on Twitter after the question aired. “Promoting outdated misogynistic terms to describe a debilitating autonomic nervous system disorder that impacts millions of Americans is not cool. We request an apology on behalf of our community. Do better.”
The organization said that “Grinch syndrome is an offensive term. Can you imagine Jeopardy making light of cancer or MS patients with a ‘funny’ name for their debilitating health condition? Not acceptable. We’d love to see real questions about the autonomic nervous system.”
The characteristic symptom of POTS is an increase in heart rate that typically occurs when moving between sitting and standing positions, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. But not all people with POTS experience the same symptoms, and some don’t have a noticeable change in heart rate. Other symptoms might include severe fatigue, lightheadedness, heart palpitations, headaches, nausea, and brain fog.
Researchers don’t know exactly why some people develop the condition, but most people with POTS don’t have an issue with the structure of their heart. Instead, the condition is related to the autonomic nervous system, which regulates many bodily functions, including heart rate, respiratory functions, and digestion.
In fact, there are different types of POTS, which can be caused by different things, Johns Hopkins Medicine explains. Neuropathic POTS is caused by damage to certain nerve fibers that help regulate blood flow, for instance. And hyperadrenergic POTS is related to an increased level of norepinephrine (also called noradrenaline), a hormone that plays a role in the body’s stress response. It’s a condition that affects between 1 million and 3 million people in the U.S., according to Dysautonomia International.
After the errors in the questions were made clear, Jeopardy! issued an apology. “Yesterday’s program included a clue about postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS),” the show’s official Twitter account said. “After hearing from the community, we found we used an outdated and inaccurate term for this disorder, and we apologize.”