LAS VEGAS — Spartan’s high-tech boxer briefs claim to “protect the family jewels” from modern-day threats — but the science behind the idea is slim.
The company claims its boxer briefs, which are woven with “radiation-blocking” silver fibers, can protect men from fertility problems caused by radiation.
“If you keep your phone in your pocket or use your laptop, you might increase your risk of infertility,” said Arthur Menard, the company’s founder.
But that claim should give pause to any underwear shoppers ready to shell out $45 a pair.
There’s no robust evidence to suggest that your phone or the nearest Wi-Fi router actually pose a threat to sperm. Some of the concern over cellphones and male fertility can be tied to a study published in 2015. That paper concluded that cellphone usage might be a risk factor for low sperm concentration.
But that was an non-randomized study of just 80 men, all of whom were visiting the same medical center for an infertility workup and who were also asked about their cellphone habits. There was a small association between talking on a cellphone while it was charging and abnormal sperm concentration, but there wasn’t any connection found between cellphone use and semen volume or the motility of sperm.
“Is there really proof that having a cellphone in your pocket can cause male infertility? No,” said Dr. Pasquale Patrizio of the Yale Fertility Center.
“Without clear proof, all of the companies are coming to fix something we don’t know is a problem.”
There’s another part of Spartan’s designs that doesn’t add up scientifically: They’re boxer briefs. Several studies, though also small, have suggested that sperm counts drop dramatically with tight underwear compared to boxers.
Still, Spartan stands by its claim that its skivvies will make cellphone use safer. The company tested its product in a lab with a radiation emitter on one side, a receptor on the other, and underwear sandwiched in between. Then, it measured how much radiation Spartan boxer briefs blocked over traditional, low-tech underwear. Spartan claims its underwear was over 99 percent effective in blocking radiation.
Its target audience isn’t just men looking for stylish, safe, and semi-scientific underwear. It’s also their wives, girlfriends, and moms, according to Menard.
“Women are way more sensible to the whole fertility argument,” Menard said.
An added bonus Spartan touts: The silver fibers are antibacterial, meaning they might be able to clamp down on odor-causing bacteria.
“Your downstairs will stay fresh at the end of the day,” Menard said.
That claim has a pretty solid likelihood to be true. But the rest of the science behind Spartan? Threadbare.