“Snowballs” is the brand name for a type of specially designed underwear that is equipped with two compartments into which freezable gels encased in plastic, termed “SnowWedges,” can be slipped. The gels, are made of sodium carboxymethyl cellulose and remain flexible even after being cooled in the freezer. The idea is that inserting the gel into the underwear twice a day for an hour each time will cool the testes sufficiently to maximize sperm production. The promoters of the product admit that “testicle icing is never high on anybody’s list of things to do,” but claim that the wedges have been designed to give the beneficial cooling without being painful.
Testicular temperature can have an effect of sperm production and sperm quality with 35-36 degrees Celsius being the optimum temperature for sperm production. Normal body temperature is about 37 degrees, which explains why testes are outside the body where they are exposed to a cooler environment. There are no studies demonstrating that wearing Snowball underwear increases sperm count or motility, but there have been several studies that have compared sperm production in men wearing tight-fitting underwear, such as jockey shorts, with men wearing boxers that presumably maintain a lower scrotal temperature. The problem is that the studies do not yield consistent results. A German study of 50 men measured the scrotal temperature of men who were wearing jockeys, boxers or no underwear both after walking on a treadmill for 45 minutes or sitting in a fixed position for the same time. Regardless of activity level, the subjects who wore jockeys had a higher scrotal temperature than the ones who wore boxers. Men who wore no underwear had the lowest scrotal temperature. A Stanford University study found that of 501 men who were trying to become fathers, those who wore boxers during the day and nothing at night had 25% less damaged DNA in their sperm than men who wore tight pants day and night. But the study did not examine whether the damaged DNA affected the birth rate.
A Norwegian study measured sperm quality and motility in 252 men who also gave information about their exposure to sources of heat including saunas, hot tubs and types of underwear. In this case, there was no correlation of sperm quality with heat exposure. Researchers at the State University of New York measured scrotal temperatures in 97 men who presented at a fertility clinic and found no difference depending on the type of underwear the men wore nor any difference in sperm quality. While some researchers have found that working with laptops on the lap for long periods can also result in damaged sperm, there is no evidence that this has any clinical significance. Taking all the studies into account, there is little reason to believe that switching to boxer shorts, or going “commando, or limiting the use of laptops is likely to enhance male fertility. Moreover, going commando increases the risk of zipper accidents. As far as boxers go, the lack of support can lead to testicular torsion, a very painful condition. And it is a good idea to put on socks before putting on any underwear. That’s so that any fungus associated with athlete’s foot is not transferred to a sensitive area.
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