Despite the awkward laughs that low-brow comedies get from a bonk in the genitals (think Zack Galifianakis in "The Hangover"), it's really no laughing matter for the 16,000 people a year who end up in the emergency room in serious pain. The most common causes are bicycles (BMX), zipper mishaps (really common), and razor cuts related to shaving pubic hair (which has caused a fivefold increase in incidents among women in the past couple of years). Basketball, baseball, skiing, and snowboarding are other common causes. Almost 40 percent of people coming into the hospital are between 18 and 28 years old. When older folks (65+) report such injuries, they're usually related to falls in the shower or tub.
In the most serious cases, the injuries can cause kidney or urinary tract damage, permanently put testicles offline, cause erection problems in men, and trigger genital numbness in both men and women.
Here are a few tips to help you dodge preventable, sport-related genital traumas; bike crossbars should be well-padded; bike seats well-cushioned; and in all sports, men must wear protective cups, while women — depending on their sport — can protect below the belt with a male cup (restrictive and uncomfortable) or female hockey compression-type shorts equipped with a female cup. (Above the belt, women should wear a protective sports bra.)
And, if you're injured, don't be embarrassed to check with your doc or go to the hospital; quick treatment can minimize discomfort and make sure you stay in the game for having future offspring.
© 2012 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
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