January 28, 2009 / 5:49 PM / 10 years ago

Cello scrotum -- the truth at last

A student plays on his cello during music class at Iraq's Music and Ballet School in Baghdad April 30, 2008. REUTERS/Mohammed Ameen

LONDON (Reuters) - “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.

Back in 1974, in a letter to the British Medical Journal, 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 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 Steve Addison

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