Which bubbly is safer - beer or champagne?

With people around the world ringing in the New Year, this is a timely question, one that raises concerns about underage drinking and driving under the influence.

Oh, yeah, and choking.

Writing this month in the British Medical Journal, emergency department physician Robert J. Douglas reported that a 24-year-old Australian football player came into the Royal Adelaide Hospital emergency room "with an inability to breathe properly" after celebrating his team's victory in a championship match.

Turned out that the bloke had inadvertently swallowed a beer bottle cap while glugging down the remaining beer in the championship cup.

Douglas searched the medical literature and found one other case of esophageal obstruction due to beer-bottle-cap ingestion; none due to champagne (or wine) cork. Douglas concluded that champagne is the safer choice for celebrations.

But wait. In a cheeky response, Australian surgeon Matthew J. Oliver predicted that choking on partially swallowed bottle caps could become increasingly common because "a lot of good quality bubbly is now . . . sealed" with the crown-shaped metal.

Chiming in, Royal Perth Hospital physician Mark E. Strahan wrote that champagne can be dangerous even when corked because there is a "risk of eye trauma as the cork may ricochet."

In case you're wondering, the bottle cap was retrieved from the inebriated football player "without complications," according to Douglas.

- Marie McCullough