Masturbation and Cricket

This is about science, I promise

When I was younger, I played for a captain who had a weird request. I wouldn't call it a rule, but he was pretty forthright. He didn't think players should have sex the night before a game. He had been an excellent player himself at a high level, and he had noticed that when he'd gotten laid the night before a game, he lacked the sharpness the next day.

It would have stayed with him, except one day, another team member said it should apply to masturbation as well. This sparked off a discussion among our teammates about their habits before the game. I was either 16 or 17, and a big part of our group talked about the merits of orgasming before sport.

I thought it was odd then, decades later, I still do.

This was a pretty amateur level of cricket, and yet here was a bunch of adult men - and some almost adults - talking about how they could make their cricket slightly better through controlling their sex drive.

But I have come (um) across professional players who believe a similar thing. No sex, no masturbation, freshness, extra energy, whatever they believe, that somehow in keeping these particular bodily fluids in you makes you a better athlete.

The weird thing is, of course some people believe the exact opposite. That releasing the man juice will somehow get them to perform better in the game the next day through relocation or clarity of thought.

I remember being obsessed by all this as a young player and wondering if I could somehow be a better player by controlling my athletic ejaculate. Abstaining the night before cricket for three straight weeks to see if it lead to extra wickets. Doing the opposite for basketball so I could be more relaxed when I was shooting the ball.

There was little science in my experiment, and I didn't stick with it for long. Because it turned out that being a young male who played amateur sports at a modest level, I couldn't convince my girlfriends at the time that this was something worthy. Which was a shame as I think I was really getting somewhere with my cross sports ejaculate data.

As I got older it wasn’t just the conversation that was weird, but the fact I in anyway believed it.

But I really haven’t thought about it much over the last years. Until I found this video by Skepchick, which is called No Nut November: Can You Increase Testosterone & Perform Better in Sports?

As you may have gathered, no nut November is a month when men decide not to cum. And Rebecca Watson looked into the science about this weird claim. But she started with history.

"The idea that ejaculation will negatively impact a man's performance in sports goes back a long way — we're talking the Greeks. The ancient kind. Around 200 BC the famed boxer Kleitomachos  claimed he owed his success to his abstinence (ironic name alert), saying that he would avert his eyes if he saw two dogs fucking."

I can't wait for Kane Williamson to tell us he has soft hands because he refuses to watch animal planet in case he sees beasts fuck. But she quickly changes to science.

"In 2016, a systematic review narrowed them down to just nine studies that met their inclusion and quality criteria. As you might guess, even the good studies were super messy. But in the end, they concluded that there was no overall negative impact on sports performance for men OR women who had sex, with the possible exception of the lotharios who have sex within two hours of a competition. Which…yeah, that makes sense. I wouldn't have sex two hours before I had to catch a plane."

Side note, if the old stories of Garfield Sobers are true - he may disagree with the two-hour rule. But, let us continue.

"Another study in 2018 had 12 healthy men test their muscle strength and endurance after having sex and after abstaining from sex, and found that there was no difference either way. Pretty damning, but the researchers themselves lament that a more robust study would have relied upon direct observation of the sexual activity rather than self-reports. Pervs."

That is pretty damning, thought Watson notes that more research needs to be done here. She also talks about testosterone:

"In 2003, researchers tested the testosterone of 14 men over the course of several weeks after they last masturbated (there was another set of 14 men who didn't abstain as a control). They found that testosterone DID increase in the abstainers, but it reached its peak (of about 50% more than normal) after 7 days, at which point it dropped back down to normal."

Seven days. That is some commitment to your weekend cricket team.

You can see Rebecca's full work here if you want to know more about no nut November and the science behind men not ejaculating.

What I find interesting is how something as obviously stupid as this can take hold in the first place. And end up in professional sport. So much of what is passed on as wisdom is just an old guy talking shit. (Which I am sure they also have opinions on when the best time before a game is.)

All this does remind me of an old coach who worked in Australia and the UK at a fairly high level. He had one piece of advice for his younger players. "Get your root on early". He didn't care if you got laid or not, but if you were going to, don't stay up to 2 AM chasing mid-way through a game.

There is an average versus strike-rate joke here I am sure of it.