The Doctor Who Told Everyone Cellos Were Bad for Your Nuts


We’re just going to jump straight into this one, because we honestly can’t believe we get a chance to use the words “cello scrotum” in a sentence and still market this as an educational website. 

For all of our male readers currently wincing hard enough to make their eyes resemble stab wounds, don’t worry, “cello scrotum” isn’t a real medical condition you can suffer from. However, for about 3 decades straight, doctors sure as shit thought it was all thanks to a single letter written by a doctor called Elaine Murphy back in 1974.

She’s kind of our hero now.

According to an interview Murphy gave in 2009 admitting that the medical condition was just something she’d made up, she wrote the original letter describing cello scrotum as a joke after her and her husband read an article in the British Medical Journal discussing something called “Guitar Nipple” and they both just laughed their asses off. According to the pages of Google we were willing to read about this condition, “guitar nipple” is described as a kind of contact dermatitis that can potentially affect the nipples of guitar players who hold their instruments too close to their chest.

Murphy said that she took one look at the article and immediately wrote it off as bullshit, but was so amused at the idea of one of the most respected medical publications on Earth publishing a story about guitar players having sore nipples, that she wanted to see what other stupid shit she could convince them of. Which is what eventually led Murphy to invent cello scrotum. A condition that we’ve been unable to find any clear description of, forcing us to assume that it involves either chafing, crushing or carefully concealed woodpeckers.

Using her credentials as a doctor and apparent expertise on nutsack related maladies, Murphy penned a letter filled with appropriate medical jargon to the BMJ describing a strange new condition she’d observed affecting the coin purses of accomplished male cellists. To conceal her identity, Murphy then had her husband sign the letter before posting it. Amazingly, the BMJ not only got the letter and read it, but published its findings in their very next issue, because of course they fucking did.

Over the next few decades, Murphy promptly forgot all about her joke and carried on with her life, but the world never forgot about Cello Scrotum because come on, how could it? Though many doctors attempted to discredit Murphy’s original letter, which remember had no basis whatsoever in fact, its findings were never formally rescinded by the publication and as a result, for 30 years, Cello Scrotum was an recognised medical condition that you could be diagnosed with. Whether or not anyone actually was diagnosed with the condition isn’t known because people with problems with their scrotum don’t really tend to talk about it all that much, however, we do know that 35 years later, the BMJ was still publishing articles about it.

It was only when Dr Murphy, who by this point was a fucking Baroness, noticed a reference to the condition in a letter that had been published by the BMJ in 2009 that she decided to come clean and admit it was a joke. By which point an entire generation of male cellists had grown up being told that the instrument they were dedicating their life to could potentially give them an almighty case of dick-itch. This is despite the fact, as Murphy rightly pointed out, there’s no way you could hold a cello that could result in it hurting your dick and/or balls. Still this didn’t stop the condition being a constant, looming rumor used to terrify the most suggestible members of the hyper competitive, dog-eat-dog world of male cello playing.

As you’d expect, when Murphy admitted the ruse, the BMJ quickly issued a correction explaining that the original evidence presented in the 1974 letter, which had been cited several times at this point, was a hoax, concluding that cello scrotum wasn’t a real condition. But here’s the best part, the BMJ still lists “guitar nipple” as a possible condition because they couldn’t find anything that would suggest it was a joke as Murphy had originally believed. So yeah, it sucks to be you right now, everyone who plays a guitar.