By now, we've heard several horror stories of former NFL and NHL players with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the progressive degenerative disease of the brain: suicides, dementia, depression. The New York Times has reported extensively on the subject.
But when a sex researcher started ruminating on the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia case, she started wondering about another possible side effect: could football and pedophilia somehow be related?
Alice Dreger, a professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, explores the question in The Atlantic.
There is some evidence of at least a loose connection: she cites a 2003 study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior that found that "pedophilic patients reported more head injuries before age 13 than did the nonpedophilic patients," and A study published last year in the Journal of Sexual Medicine that found eight men who had evidence of "acquired pedophilic behavior from brain disease" and disinhibition as well as this literature review that also backs up the disinhibition theory, and expounds on hypersexuality and hyposexuality.
And she quotes a psychologist:
Traumatic brain injury has also been linked to a decrease in libido and sexual function. About half of traumatic brain injury patients report a decreased libido and/or erectile dysfuction, according to Better Health Channel. This chart shows the full range of possible sexual problems following a traumatic brain injury, from forgetting to use contraception to visiting prostitutes.
Of course, traumatic brain injury and chronic traumatic encephalopathy are different, and there are other layers of complexity clouding the issue: not everyone shows symptoms of CTE, for example.
"But all this does leave me wondering whether we need to consider the possibility that sports head injuries can cause a much wider range of life-altering effects than is now being openly discussed," Dreger concludes.