March Madness Means Bets, Basketball and Vasectomies

More doctors are marketing the sterilization procedure with the NCAA tournament.

March 18, 2010, 5:55 PM

March 19, 2010— -- Like many men, David Bone of Springfield Ore. had a plan for college basketball's annual March Madness tournament: enter a bracket , take care of chores ahead of time, and get a vasectomy.

Yes, a vasectomy. In the past two years, more and more doctors across the nation have jumped on the tournament as a prime opportunity to get men to "take care of the equipment and lower your seed for the tourney," as one advertisement for an Oregon urologist suggested.

Urologists are even offering March Madness deals with pizza, mugs and reminders of the mandatory days off of from work they'll need to help prod men to make the cut.

"What better way to spend March Madness than to have doctor's orders to sit on the couch?" Bone, 38, told ABC News.

"I heard about this thing called 'Snip City' last year and I thought 'that is a really good idea,'" said Bone, 38.

Bone said he visited the Oregon Urology Institute in Eugene, Ore. for the 15-minute procedure on Thursday, which will leave him with a long weekend to sit at home and watch the games with his new promotional package: a cooler, a Subway sandwich coupon, a promotional T-shirt, a sports magazine and a bag of frozen peas, ah ... for the swelling. He says he'll spend spare time playing with his five children.

Dr. Douglas Hoff, a urologist at the Oregon Urology Institute, said Bone is not alone. He's seen twice as many vasectomy appointments in March than in any other month.

"I don't know if these were the guys who were on the fence and this pushed them over the edge, or if these are guys who would be doing it anyways," said Hoff.

In Green Bay, Wis., Dr. Bruce Neal is also reporting a slight business uptick during the tournament.

"Usually because of the weather the way it is, a lot of people are going to be watching ...[their] NCAA basketball team," said Neal, of the BayClinic. "We thought we could catch people in their down time, and give them a reason to sit there and watch one basketball game after another."

Neal's office also used a "Let our Boys Take Care of Your Boys" promotion at the end of the year to draw in more customers. This is his second year of offering a March Madness promotion.

Vasectomies and March Madness?

Although birth control is an option for many couples, urologists say men are far less likely to take the leap. The National Institutes of Health estimates that 15 percent of couples rely on female sterilization, but only 5 percent of couples rely on male sterilization as a form of birth control.

Like any surgical procedures, vasectomies have risks and a recovery time. But the operation which requires only a local anesthesia, is much less demanding than tubal ligation. Women undergoing this procedure need general anesthesia on top of a 30 minute procedure, according to the National Institutes of Health. There are also more risks during recovery for women than men.

Complications, for men, according to Neal, include bleeding and infection in about one in 100 patients. Neal said most patients who start bleeding do so because they've ignored instructions to rest. Very few men may also develop chronic pain after the procedure. Neal said in 20 years of doing 100 vasectomies per year, he has had one patient develop chronic pain.

"I think it's hard to convince men, in general, to get health care," said Neal. "You get these 20, 30, or 40-year-olds who seek health care with a lot less frequency than women do in the same age group… so a lot of men will go undiagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure) and heart disease."

However, Neal said once men enter his office the majority go through with the procedure.

While more clinics are offering March Madness specials each year, the link between March Madness (or Vas Madness as an Austin, Texas office calls it) hasn't reached all parts of the country yet.

"From my experience in my geographic area, the top two scenarios are if it's the end of the year, and they've met their deductible and they're trying to fit it in… -- that's probably the biggest spike in the year," said Dr. Wayne Kuang, of the American Urological Association, who practices in Albuquerque, N.M. and a professor at the University of New Mexico.

The other scenario is if the wife recently gave birth, and the couple has agreed it will be their last child, he said.

But Kuang didn't doubt that many of his patients who follow doctor's orders to rest will be watching the game.

"It's a great marketing scheme; we always recommend that you go home and lay low and on your easy chair," said Kuang.

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