The Loh Down On Science

A surprising health risk for men who play wind instruments!

Rezakhaniha and others, Zahedan Journal of Medical Sciences, 2012.

Comparing the degree of three types (1, 2, 3) of infertility-causing vein enlargement in wind-instrument players versus non-wind-instrument players (military drivers). Larger numbers below columns 1, 2, and 3 mean greater severity. P is a measure of "statistical significance" (whether the results could not happen just by chance). Usually, a P-value of less than 0.05 indicates the results likely would not occur by chance, which gives study results more weight.

Do musicians make good family men?

This is Sandra Loh with the Loh Down on Science 

Saying, and by "family men" we mean men who can father children. 

Doctors in Iran just published a paper linking the playing of wind instruments to male infertility.

See, musicians use the Valsava maneuver when playing instruments like the trumpet or harmonica.  The Valsava maneuver?  It’s that thing you do to clear your ears on an airplane. 

Abdominal pressure from the maneuver also increases chances of developing varicocele. That's the most common cause of male infertility.  It's an enlargement of the veins in the scrotum. Luckily, it's rarely painful.

To test the connection, the urologists compared the testicular health of wind instrumentalists to military drivers. 

Sure, enough, they found twice the rate of varicocele in the musicians. 

Luckily, varicocele is treatable.  But if you're a guy trying to start a family, it may be time to retire the tuba. 

Interesting. It still doesn’t answer the question, “What do you call a drummer without a girlfriend?”  . . . “Homeless.”  Oh come, drummers, we kid because we love!

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The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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