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Does sexual frustration boost aggression?

Staff Writer
The continent's most prestigious football showpiece, the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals bring along lots of excitement. There is at least one type of action that many of our stars will probably avoid: sex.

Many sportsmen swear by avoiding sex before a big sports event to keep their strength for the battle ahead.

Those that practice a strict policy of sexual abstinence before playing are stern believers in the theory that sex before competitive sport saps their energy.

Former American professional boxer Muhammad Ali reportedly would not make love for six weeks before a fight.
The German national football team was banned by then manager Berti Vogts from having sex before games at the 1994 World Cup staged in United States.

In sharp contrast, at last year's World Cup in South Africa, the Argentinian and Brazilian teams were actually encouraged to spend time with their partners.

Interestingly, there was none of that for Fabio Capello's England team. Wayne Rooney and his teammates were given strict instructions that they could only see their loved ones after each match.

But there is no physiological evidence that suggests that sex before sports competition is risky in any way. On the contrary, some studies suggest that pre-sports sex can help athletes raise their hormonal levels to success.

Ex-Brazil legendary forward Ronaldo Lu’s Naz‡rio de Lima once made claims that sex was his lucky charm.

And with the avalanche of goals the former Real Madrid hitman scored during his illustrious football career, his lucky charm seems to have been dependable.

It, however, remains unclear what psychological effects sex may have on an athlete's performance but the national team coach Stanley Tshosane suggests that abstinence could help some athletes concentrate better.

Tshosane, a speedy winger for the BDF XI during his playing days, says:

"Players need to concentrate on the next game and nothing else. Again, scientifically, they say there are fluids that one loses during sex that affect the human body system. So we were advised to abstain before games."

But research paints a picture of two possible ways sex before competitive sport could affect performance.

First, it could make one tired and weak the next day, an assertion which SuperSport United and Zebras' midfielder Mogogi Gabonamong brushes off. The second way is that it could affect one's psychological state of mind although this is yet to be proven by experts.

Gabonamong or Gino as he is popularly known says: "It doesn't affect you in any way provided you are doing it with your wife or your regular partner."

Extension Gunners' anchorman Marshall Machazani, who hails from Zimbabwe, seems to concur with him.

"Many footballers have been haunted by that back home in Zimbabwe. It's not a good thing because it brings you bad luck. But if it's done with your wife it's associated with good luck," Machazani says. Gino stresses the need to do it with caution.

On the other hand, his Zebras' teammate, Sekhana Koko, puts emphasis on age and timing.

"With mature players I don't see that being a problem. But, of course, a young player may get carried away and overdo it. As long as you do it well in time and you give yourself enough hours of sleep it is fine," Koko says.

An article in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine indicates that the "long-standing myth that athletes should practice abstinence before

important competitions may stem from the theory that sexual frustration leads to increased aggression."

The abstinence tradition is particularly strong in power sports such as boxing, rugby and football, in which aggression is considered a valuable trait.

Perhaps that explains why British tennis ace Andy Murray recently conceded that he does not hesitate bedding a woman a night before a big game.

Some people believe the act of ejaculation draws testosterone, the hormone of both sexual desire and aggression, from the body.

But another school of thought says that sex stimulates the production of testosterone, thus boosting aggression.

Namibia-based physiotherapist Admire Nyathi, who also studied sports science, thinks it differs with personalities.

"Sexual intercourse is generally energy consuming and also it stimulates the body to release some hormones, usually those that make you happy, the enkaphalins.

But of course it differs with personalities, some players like Ronaldo did not have problems with performance after having sexual intercourse," Nyathi says.

Maybe the big question would be whether sex the night before competition has a tiring effect on the athlete especially considering the argument that love-making is not a very demanding physical exercise.

According to research done in Italy at in last decade, sexual intercourse between 'married partners' expends only 25 to 50 calories, about the energy it takes to walk up two flights of stairs.

Sexual activity could actually help combat muscle pain or other sports injuries in women, according to Barry Komisaruk, a psychology professor at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey.

His studies have found that sexual stimulation in women produces a powerful pain-blocking effect.

The effect, he says, can last for up to a day in the case of chronic pain such as muscle pain.

"At least one of the mechanisms by which sex blocks pain is that it blocks the release of a neuropeptide substance P, which is a pain transmitter," he said.

Komisaruk has also found that vaginal stimulation has a strong effect on muscle tension in the legs, increasing it in some women and decreasing it in others.

A local netball star, Lillian Rangkwe, who turns out for Spar Netball League outfit Jungle Queens, says she has no problem with sex before a big game.

"It doesn't affect me in a negative way neither does it make me tired.

I honestly have never found any effect on my performances," the Queens' skipper says.

In essence, little is known about the psychological effects of sex on athletic performance.

BMC midfielder Hillary Madzivanyika reckons coaches may prefer the abstinence theory simply because they want to make sure players get enough rest before a big game.

He, however, admits it depends on individual preference and routine. Therefore, he argues that consistency is key.

"One can't afford to try something before an important competition that they have not already tried at practice," he said.

Clearly, the effects of sex vary among athletes. Some personalities need more concentration and in this case sex may be a bad idea.

For other athletes a bit of extra aggression could be the difference between winning and losing. In such cases, complete and satisfactory sexual intercourse the evening before the game could work the magic.



Ke a phantsha

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