Testicular injuries are relatively uncommon, but guys should be aware that they can happen. So how can you avoid injury and what should you do if one happens?
Why Do They Happen?
If you're pretty active, you've probably found out that the testicles are kind of vulnerable and can be injured in a variety of ways.
The testicles hang in a sac outside the body (the scrotum). So they're not protected by bones and muscles like other parts of the reproductive system and other organs. Also, their location puts them at risk to be struck on the playing field or injured during heavy exercise and activity.
But because the testicles are loosely attached to the body and are made of a spongy material, they can absorb most hits without permanent damage. Testicles, while sensitive, can bounce back pretty quickly. Minor injuries rarely have long-term effects. Also, sexual function or sperm production isn't likely to be affected by a testicular injury.
What Should I Do About an Injury?
You'll definitely feel pain if your testicles are struck or kicked, and you might also feel nauseated for a short time. If it's a minor testicular injury, the pain should gradually ease in less than an hour and any other symptoms should go away.
To feel better, you can take a pain reliever, lie down, gently support the testicles with supportive underwear, and apply wrapped ice packs to the area. It's a good idea to avoid strenuous activity for a while and take it easy for a few days.
But get to a doctor right away if:
- The pain doesn't let up or you have extreme pain that lasts longer than 1 hour.
- You have swelling or bruising of the scrotum or a puncture of the scrotum or testicle.
- You continue to have nausea and vomiting.
- You develop a fever.
These are symptoms of a much more serious injury that needs care as soon as possible.
Serious Testicular Injuries
Serious testicular injuries include testicular torsion and testicular rupture.
Testicular torsion is when the testicle twists around, cutting off its blood supply. It's rare, and when it does happen it's often for no clear reason. Occasionally torsion is due to a serious trauma to the testicles or heavy activity.
Testicular torsion is a medical emergency. It's most common in guys ages 12 to 18, so if you think it's happening to you, go to the emergency room right away.
If doctors fix a torsion within 4 to 6 hours of when the pain starts, there's usually no lasting damage to the testicle. A torsion that isn't fixed quickly is likely to lead to loss of the testicle or permanently reduced sperm production. Doctors sometimes fix a torsion manually by untwisting the testicle. If that doesn't work, they do a simple surgery.
Testicular rupture is a rare type of testicular trauma. It can happen if the testicle gets a forceful direct blow or is crushed against the pubic bone, causing blood to leak into the scrotum. Testicular rupture, like testicular torsion and other serious injuries to the testicles, causes extreme pain, swelling in the scrotum, nausea, and vomiting. Surgery is needed to fix the ruptured testicle.
What Do Doctors Do?
If you have to see a doctor, they'll first need to know how long you have been having pain and how severe it is. To rule out a hernia or other problem as the cause of the pain, the doctor will examine your abdomen and groin.
The doctor also will look at your scrotum for swelling, color, and damage to the skin, and examine the testicle itself. Infections of the reproductive system or urinary tract can sometimes cause similar pain. So your doctor may do a urine test to rule out a urinary tract infection or infection of the reproductive organs.
How Can I Prevent Testicular Injuries?
Take steps to avoid testicular injuries, especially if you play sports, exercise a lot, or just live an all-around active life.
Here are some tips to keep your testicles safe and sound:
- Protect your testicles. Always wear an athletic cup or athletic supporter when playing sports or doing a heavy activity. Athletic cups are usually made of hard plastic and worn over the groin area. They provide a good degree of shielding and safety for the testicles. Cups are best used when doing sports where your testicles might get hit or kicked, like football, hockey, soccer, or karate.
An athletic supporter, or jock strap, is basically a cloth pouch that you wear to keep your testicles close to your body. Athletic supporters are best used for strenuous exercise, cycling, and heavy lifting.
- Check your fit. Make sure the athletic cup and/or athletic supporter is the right size. Safety equipment that's too small or too big won't protect you as effectively.
- Keep your doctor informed. If you play sports, you probably have regular sports physicals with a doctor. If you have testicular pain even once in a while, talk to your doctor about it.
- Be aware of the risks of your sport or activity. If you play a sport or do an activity with a high risk of injury, talk to your coach or doctor about any other protective gear you should use.
Playing sports and living an active life are great ways to stay fit and relieve stress. But it's important to protect your testicles. Use protective gear and you'll be able to play hard without fear of testicular injury.