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Can Concussions Really Lead to Erectile Dysfunction?

2 Oct, 2019

By: Michael Popke

Former professional football players who experienced concussion symptoms are more likely to report low testosterone and erectile dysfunction (ED), according to research recently published in JAMA Neurology.

A survey of more than 3,400 former NFL players (the largest study cohort of former professional football players to date) was conducted by investigators at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School as part of the ongoing Football Players Health Study at Harvard University.

While the results do not prove a cause-effect link between concussion and ED, nor do they explain exactly how head trauma might precipitate the onset of ED, the findings reveal an intriguing and powerful link between a history of concussions and hormonal and sexual dysfunction, regardless of player age, researchers say.

Notably, the ED risk persisted even when researchers accounted for other possible causes (such as diabetes, heart disease or sleep apnea).

In other concussion-related news…

Female athletes seek specialty medical treatment for sports-related concussions later than male athletes, according to researchers from the Sports Medicine Program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). This delay, they add, may cause females to experience more symptoms and longer recovery times.

Researchers reported these findings and published them in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine after analyzing electronic health records of sports participants between the ages of 7 and 18. They say the study raises the question of whether, inequities in medical and athletic trainer coverage on the sidelines at high school and youth sports games are contributing to delayed identification and specialized treatment of concussion in females.

“It is possible that the lack of athletic training coverage at the time of injury may affect the time to concussion recognition during the first critical hours and days after injury,” the study’s senior author, Christina Master, a pediatric and adolescent primary care sports medicine specialist at CHOP’sCenter for Injury Research and Prevention, said in a statement. “This period is a window of opportunity where specific clinical management, such as immediate removal from play, activity modification and sub-symptom threshold exercise is correlated with more rapid recovery.”

A New York law requiring all tackle football programs in the state to provide information about concussions to parents or guardians of children who play the sport will take effect Dec. 2 — 90 days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it. The informational packets will include details about concussions, sub-concussive blows and related injuries, according to Rochester, N.Y.’s WHAM-TV.

The law applies to any program, whether organized by schools, parks and recreation departments or independent organizations, and the informational program will be overseen by the New York State Department of Health.

During the 2016-17 National Hockey League season, only two goaltenders suffered concussions, and they collectively missed 15 games. By contrast, a recent Associated Press report reveals that 14 goalies missed a total of 276 games during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons because of concussions or other head injuries.

“We’re so dialed in on the puck, a lot of times you don’t see guys come from the side,” New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist told the AP. “As a player, you can always adjust your body, but if we adjust our positioning, we open up the net. You just have to stand there and, I think, in a lot of situations hope for the best when people come running into you.”

“In recent years, the focus has been on trimming the size of goalie equipment as a way to generate more offense, and players are routinely coached to crash the net whenever possible,” the AP reported. “It adds up to putting the most valuable and vulnerable players on the ice at risk of head contact they can do little to avoid and often isn’t even penalized.”

Some players say the leaguewide decline in fighting has led to “players feeling like they can take liberties at the crease,” according to the AP. In many cases, added 30-year-old Washington Capitals goalkeeper Braden Holtby, “it’s the younger generation [that has] grown up with … no fear to go to the crease.”

Other players contend said the threat of minor two-minute penalties is not enough to deter players from crashing the net in an effort to score a goal.

“For me, it’s just common sense,” Jonathan Marchessault, a forward for the Vegas Golden Knights, said. “Goalies [are] there in their net, and I think everybody should respect more of their crease and be more severe … on the goalie interference [penalties].”

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