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A Journal on Sports Medicine

Official Journal of the Italian Sports Medicine Federation
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Medicina dello Sport 2003 March;56(1):47-56

language: Italian

Sporting activity and male reproduction

Giordano-Lanza G. 1, Tafuri D. 2, Guerra G. 1

1 Scuola di Specializzazione in Medicina dello Sport, Servizio Speciale in Medicina dello Sport, Università degli Studi di Napoli «Federico II», Napoli;
2 Facoltà di Scienze Motorie, Università degli Studi di Napoli «Parthenope», Napoli


The study of the male reproductive function in the course of sporting activity has long been neglected above all because evidently there is a lack of objective symptomatology in the male athlete compared with what can be observed in his female counterpart. Testicular function is guaranteed by the correct functioning of the hypothalamus-hypophysis-gonadal axis through the GnRH and the gonadotropins (FSH and LH) secreted respectively by the hypothalamus and by the pituitary gland. Gonadotropin secretion is regulated by the combined action of estrogens and testosterone. The psychophysical stress that occurs during intense sporting activity determines in both male and female athletes the elevation of certain specific hormones such as cortisol, prolactin and testosterone which interfere with the pulsatile rhythm of GnRH, leading to a state of hypogonadotropic which is evidenced clinically with a varying degree of irregularity of the menstrual cycle in females or with semen irregularities of varying severity in males. The pharmacological abuse of anabolism steroids is one of the most frequent and diffuse causes of hormonal doping. This type of substance is taken above all by body-builders, shot-putters, weight-lifters but also by sprinters or rugby players, in a word by all those athletes whose sport requires an increase in muscular power and stamina. A large number of side-effects are brought on by the uncontrolled use of these hormones, the most frequent being: testicular atrophy, gynecomastia, arterial hypertension, epistasis, prostatitis, prostatic hypertrophy, maniacal and depressive conditions.

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