John Gordon Ross

A Man for All Reasons

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Is Guitar Nipple a Hoax, too?

January 29th, 2009 · No Comments

I posted the following on Jean-François Delcamp’s classical guitar forum, but just in case any guitarists in the know run across this post first:

There’s a thread going about the recently disclosed cello scrotum hoax which I don’t want to hijack. But the doubt is raised. by none other than Baroness Murphy herself, who must be a most remarkable person. According to her widely reported confession, Doctor (as she then was) Murphy invented the condition cello scrotum in a letter to the British Medical Journal in 1974, inspired by “reports in the BMJ about the alleged condition guitar nipple, caused by irritation when the guitar was pressed against the chest,” says Reuters, which adds that Doctor Murphy “also said she suspected “guitar nipple” had been a joke.”

The Reuters story is more or less the same as that given by the BBC news site (you’ll find it in the Cello Scrotum thread) and other online press. The only exception I have noticed is the version from FoxNews, which reads like something from a different planet altogether and maintains that Doctor Murphy and her husband had also invented guitar nipple as a hoax. But I think this account is probably the result of drug or alcohol abuse by the journalist responsible and that we can safely disregard it altogether.

Now, the cello scrotum story being recent and amusing, it’s quite difficult to find references on the Net to “guitar nipple” which are not related to it. But I have seen the odd thing, and it seems that until now “guitar nipple” has been taken more or less seriously as a more or less real complaint. Not a particularly serious one, and not a mysterious one either, just a typical occupational inflammation. There’s a Telegraph article here, and an abstract of a study of the literature here.

Wikipedia now refers to “guitar nipple” as a hoax, if only in its entry for “cello scrotum” (that’s not an invitation to more Wikipedia-bashing, please, it’s just a comment).

It seems to me that between us we really should be able to answer this question more or less definitively. We have a number of doctors on the forum – what’s the gen from them? Has anyone here actually been diagnosed as having guitar nipple, or does anyone know anyone who has?

You never know, we could get ourselves in the medical literature, here.

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Tags: Guitar · Life

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