NFL Players Risk Erectile Dysfunction, Low Testosterone

The display of testosterone and brawn apparent during a football game leaves little room in the observer’s mind for thoughts of impotence and declining T. Yet a new study has found that some former NFL players risk erectile dysfunction and low testosterone after retirement.

More specifically, former NFL players who experienced more concussions during their time on the field reported having more problems with erectile function and low testosterone after they retired from the game than their peers who had fewer concussions.

NFL players risk erectile dysfunction: study

The study involved the analysis of information reported via questionnaires distributed to 13,720 former NFL players. Of these, 3,506 (25.6%) responded, with a mean age of 52.5 years and a mean player career length of 6.8 seasons.

The questionnaire asked men about their concussion history as well as their current sexual function and testosterone levels. Data collection was completed between January 2015 and March 2017.

Among the findings:

  • The prevalence of indicators of low testosterone was 18.3 percent and for erectile dysfunction, 22.7 percent
  • Both conditions were reported by nearly 10 percent of the respondents
  • Medication for erectile dysfunction was being used by 50.2 percent of the men with this condition
  • Medication for low testosterone was being taken by 39.8 percent of men who met the criteria for this condition

Analysis of the data showed that men who had experienced a greater number of concussions were more likely to report these symptoms than those who had fewer head traumas.

According to Rachel Grashow, PhD, MS, one of the study’s authors and a research scientist for the Football Players Health Study at Harvard University, this study is important because it was large, which allowed the authors “to control for other factors that contribute to [erectile dysfunction] that other smaller studies didn’t have the statistical power to explore.”

Grashow and her team also noted that the study “gets the message to former player that if they are suffering from [erectile dysfunction], it may be directly connected to their playing history, not some sort of personal failure.” This knowledge may therefore prompt more men to seek help for these conditions.

Bottom line

The authors of the study hope their findings will help to open up dialogue between football players and others who have experienced head injury and symptoms of low testosterone or erectile dysfunction with physicians, as both of these conditions are treatable. They also note that in addition to cognitive problems previously associated with head trauma in football, NFL players risk erectile dysfunction and low testosterone and that these issues should be discussed with healthcare providers.


Grashow R et al. Association of concussion symptoms with testosterone levels and erectile dysfunction in former professional US-style football players. JAMA Neurology 2019 Aug 26

Neuffer P. Concussions put NFL players at risk for erectile dysfunction, low testosterone. Healio Endocrinology Today