Harvard study links NFL head trauma to erectile dysfunction, low testosterone

A Harvard study published Monday links high concussion rates among former NFL players with erectile dysfunction later in life.

The study, published through the Journal of the American Medical Association, consulted with 3,409 former NFL players who have played since 1960 after hard plastic football helmets became standard.

The study found that players who reported having suffered significant concussion symptoms had a higher likelihood of seeking medical treatment for erectile dysfunction.

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‘Really strong relationship’ between concussions, ED

"We've found a really strong relationship between reports of concussion symptoms, and the likelihood that the guys reported erectile dysfunction, low testosterone," Harvard’s Rachel Grashow — the lead author of the study — told AFP.

A Harvard study found a "really strong relationship" between concussion symptoms and erectile dysfunction among former NFL players. (Reuters)
A Harvard study found a "really strong relationship" between concussion symptoms and erectile dysfunction among former NFL players. (Reuters)

Study: Low levels of concussions appear to pose risk

The study controlled for other potential contributing factors such as high cholesterol, diabetes and heart failure and asked players to rate their concussion experiences based on symptoms like loss of consciousness, disorientation, seizures, visual problems, nausea, memory problems and dizziness.

The study also found that even those who scored relatively low in reporting concussion symptoms had a higher chance of reporting low testosterone than those at the lowest level of the study.

From the study:

“Even participants with relatively few concussion symptoms (ie, those in the second quartile) had significantly elevated odds of reporting low testosterone levels compared with men in the lowest quartile.”

What’s the link?

The study hypothesized that damage to the pituitary gland from head trauma called hypopituitarism could play a role in lower testosterone levels and erectile dysfunction.

It also concluded that the results could be relevant to men in other fields such as the military, boxing, soccer and mixed martial arts who are at risk of repeated head trauma.

“These findings suggest that men with a history of head injury may benefit from discussions with their health care clinicians regarding testosterone deficiency and sexual dysfunction,” the report stated.

The study is the latest pointing to potential long-term health risks of playing football like depression and CTE.

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