Fear not music makers, cello scrotum doesn't exist

Wed Jan 28, 2009 6:29am EST
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - "Cello scrotum," a nasty ailment allegedly suffered by musicians, does not exist and the condition was just a hoax, a senior British doctor has admitted.

In a letter to prominent medical magazine, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in 1974, Elaine Murphy reported that cellists suffered from the painful complaint caused by their instrument repeatedly rubbing against their body.

The claim had been inspired by reports in the BMJ about the alleged condition "guitar nipple," caused by irritation when the guitar was pressed against the chest.

But Murphy, now a Baroness and a former Professor of Psychiatry of Old Age at Guy's Hospital in London, has admitted her supposed medical complaint was a spoof.

"Perhaps after 34 years it's time for us to confess we invented cello scrotum," she wrote with her husband John, who had signed the original letter, which was published in the BMJ on Wednesday.

"Anyone who has ever watched a cello being played would realize the physical impossibility of our claim."

Murphy, who said the couple had been "dining out" on their story ever since they made it up, said they had decided to reveal the hoax after it was referred to in a recent BMJ article on health problems associated with making music.

She also said she suspected "guitar nipple" had been a joke.

(Reporting by Michael Holden, editing by Paul Casciato)