March Madness is in full swing, but along with the fervor over the annual college basketball tournament comes news of a different kind of spring event: vasectomy season.
According to some news outlets, March Madness is tied to an increase in men getting vasectomies. "March Madness vasectomy season is upon us," one recent headline declared. "Vasectomy Spike linked to March Madness," read another. The thinking is that men schedule their vasectomies to coincide with March Madness, which gives them a legitimate reason to sit on the couch for hours watching games while recovering, according to The New York Times.
But is this a real happening, or just hearsay?
It may be a bit of both.
It appears that there is, indeed, an uptick in vasectomies in the U.S. during March. A 2018 study of vasectomy trends in the U.S. found that most vasectomies are performed in March, as well as during the end-of-year holidays. [5 Myths About the Male Body]
But rather than an organic trend, the uptick in March may have been spurred by media headlines and marketing, experts told Live Science.
It's "an urban legend that led to fact," said Dr. Ajay Nangia, a professor and vice chair of urology at The University of Kansas Health System.
According to Nangia, the origins of the idea trace back to around 2004, when a urologist tried to promote vasectomies during March Madness. News outlets picked up on the idea, which eventually led to more men actually booking vasectomies in March. "It's become self-perpetuating," Nangia told Live Science.
Dr. Sarah Vij, a urologist and assistant professor of surgery at the Cleveland Clinic's Glickman Urological & Kidney Institute, said she saw marketing as playing a role in March vasectomies.
"In recent years, there have been significant marketing efforts around vasectomy during March Madness. Patients have responded very positively to this," Vij told Live Science.
Indeed, Vij's center started marketing vasectomies around March Madness in 2017 and 2018, during which they saw a significant increase in patient volume; and they have increased their available procedure slots to accommodate this rise in interest, she said.
"Urology offices around the country are similarly advertising the benefits of a weekend on the couch watching basketball, recovering from the procedure," Vij said. "March Madness is one of the few sporting events where games are on all day, all weekend — so it's a popular idea." [Sexy Swimmers: 7 Facts About Sperm]
But that doesn't mean that all men who get vasectomies in March are die-hard college basketball fans.
Nangia said he has started asking the vasectomy patients he sees in March whether they booked the procedure to coincide with the NCAA tournament. Most have told him no — March was simply a convenient time. So although Nangia does think some men get vasectomies to coincide with March Madness, he hasn't seen it in his practice.
Dr. Elizabeth Kavaler, a urology specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, said she hasn't specifically seen a link between March Madness and vasectomies, although she has noted an increase in springtime in general.
"I do think there's an uptick in interest [in vasectomies] at this time of year," Kavaler said. "I don't know if the basketball tournament has anything to do with it, or if it's the spring."
"I've never made the association" between March Madness and vasectomies, she added. Kavaler also noted that other popular sporting events, like the Super Bowl, don't coincide with an increase in vasectomies.
A vasectomy is a surgical procedure to cut the tubes that carry sperm, so that there is no longer sperm in the man's ejaculate. It's considered a permanent form of male birth control, according to Mayo Clinic.
The procedure is quick, taking about 10 minutes, and requires only local anesthesia, Vij said. It's nearly 100 percent effective.
"All men have some scrotal swelling after the procedure, so we do recommend taking it easy for a few days," Vij said.
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Originally published on Live Science.
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Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.