Does sex before a game ruin performance?
The effect sex has on athletes before events was associated with myth and misinformation since competition began.
Plato wrote in 444 BC that, “Olympic competitors before races should avoid sexual intimacy.”
In 77 AD, Pliny the Elder wrote to the contrary that “Athletes when sluggish are revitalized by lovemaking.”
Thousands of years later, the controversy continues with athletes like boxer Muhammad Ali who would abstain for weeks before a title bout, while Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath was a supporter of sex, and a lot of it, before a football game.
Many athletic organizations, including the SAIT Trojans advise players to not engage in sex before competition as it will weaken performance.
SAIT Trojans forward Matt Stefanishion agreed with his coaches’ advice after pre-game warm ups, which is to stay away from “the girls” so that players don’t, “lose their legs.”
This is a saying Stefanishion has heard many times from coaches throughout his career.
“[Sex] hinders my performance, I just don’t do it,” said Stefanishion.
“Coaches want your head and strength in the game, especially before a big game or during the play-off season,” said Stefanishion.
“Coaches demand abstinence without any serious research to support them, and there simply isn’t anything in medical literature to support abstinence,” said exercise physiologist and author of Sex Before Athletic Competition: Myth or Fact Tommy Boone in a telephone interview.
Boone suggested pre-sport sex actually aids male athletes by raising testosterone levels.
Boone found that after numerous weeks without sex, testosterone dramatically drops below normal, close to prepubescent levels, which is damaging to the athlete.
Montreal sports medicine specialist Ian Shrier said in an interview with National Geographic that his research has disproved the idea that sex makes people tired and weak the next day.
Shrier studied this aspect by conducting handgrip strength tests and reported sex had, “No detrimental influence on the maximal workload achieved or on the athletes’ mental concentration.”
“If athletes are too anxious and restless the night before an event, then sex may be a relaxing distraction,” Shrier wrote in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, in 2000.
A 1999 study by Emmanuele Jannini at the University of L’Aquila in Italy showed that testosterone levels in men rise after an increase in sexual activity.
Jannini disproved the theory that abstinence may result in sexual frustration, which leads to increased aggression.
“If a sportsman needs to be more aggressive it’s better to have sex,” said Jannini in an email interview.
For female athletes, sexual activity could actually help combat muscle pain or other sports injuries and is encouraged.
Gynecologist Mona Shandgold has found that sexual stimulation in women produces a pain-blocking effect through the release of endorphins, which are natural pain relievers produced by the body.
Shandgold has determined through research that vaginal stimulation has a strong effect on muscle tension in the legs, increasing it in some women and decreasing it in others.
“A woman should do whatever she’s comfortable doing,” said Shangold, in an interview with American Fitness. “If she’s accustomed to having regular sexual activity, abstention may be disruptive.”
SAIT Trojans Women’s Hockey team member Paige Magnusson said sexual intercourse benefits her performance on the ice.
“It makes me calm and focused in order to get ready for a game,” explained Magnusson, who said most of the girls on the team agreed.
“The do-it-yourself option always works great too,” said Magnusson stressing the importance of sexual release through intercourse or masturbation for female athletes.
Magnusson also said that talk of sex between her coaches and teammates would be inappropriate.
Locker room Sex talk
• Legendary New York Yankees coach Casey Stengel has been famously quoted saying that maybe sex isn’t the problem. “It isn’t sex that wrecks these guys, it’s staying up all night looking for it.”
• According to sports writer Roger Kahn, “Football is violence and cold weather and sex and college rye.”
• Tennis player Martina Navratilova said possibly the sexiest thing ever: “People in the States used to think that if girls were good at sports their sexuality would be affected. Being feminine meant being a cheerleader, not being an athlete.
“The image of women is changing now. You don’t have to be pretty for people to come and see you play. At the same time, if you’re a good athlete, it doesn’t mean you’re not a woman.”