Washington: Former professional football players, who have experienced concussion symptoms, including loss of consciousness, disorientation or nausea after a head injury, are more likely to report low testosterone and erectile dysfunction (ED), suggests a study.
The study published in the journal 'JAMA Neurology,' revealed an intriguing and powerful link between the history of concussions and hormonal and sexual dysfunction, regardless of player age.
The results also suggested that sleep apnea and the use of prescription pain medication contribute to low testosterone and ED.
"Former players with ED may be relieved to know that concussions sustained during their NFL careers may be contributing to a condition that is both common and treatable," said Rachel Grashow, study's lead author.
The results are based on a survey of 3,409 former NFL players, average age of 52 years (age range 24 to 89), conducted between 2015 and 2017.
Participants were asked to report how often blows to the head or neck caused them to feel dizzy, nauseated or disoriented, or to experience headaches, loss of consciousness or vision disturbances--all markers of concussion.
Responders were grouped into four categories by a number of concussive symptoms.
Next, the former players were asked whether a clinician had recommended medication for either low testosterone or ED, and whether they were currently taking such medications.
Men who reported the highest number of concussion symptoms were two and a half times more likely to report receiving either a recommendation for medication or to be currently taking medication for low testosterone, compared to men who reported the fewest concussion symptoms.
Players who reported losing consciousness following head injury had an elevated risk for ED even in the absence of other concussion-related symptoms.
Notably, even former players with relatively few concussion symptoms had an elevated risk for low testosterone, a finding that suggests there may be no safe threshold for head trauma, the team said.
Of all participants, 18 per cent reported low testosterone and nearly 23 per cent reported ED. Slightly less than 10 per cent of participants reported both.
As expected, individuals with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, and depression, as well as those taking prescription pain medication--all of which are known to affect sexual health--were more likely to report low testosterone levels and ED. Yet, the link between concussion history and low testosterone levels and ED persisted even after researchers accounted for these other conditions.
The link between the history of concussion and ED was present among both the older and the younger players--those under age 50 in this case--the analysis showed, and it persisted over time.
"We found the same association of concussions with ED among both younger and older men in the study, and we found the same risk of ED among men who had last played twenty years ago," said the study's senior author Andrea Roberts.
"These findings suggest that increased risk of ED following head injury may occur at relatively young ages and may linger for decades thereafter," said Roberts....