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April 21, 2023
Getting “hit in the balls” is a common joke in Hollywood movies. It even happened to Mickey Mouse. But, in real life, testicular trauma is far from funny. If the injury is significant, it can lead to complications like low testosterone, sexual dysfunction, urological problems, and even male-factor infertility.
Read on to find out why testicles are so sensitive, explore different types of injuries, and learn what to do if you do get hurt.
The testicles, or testes, are two small egg-shaped organs contained in the scrotum of people assigned male at birth. In most people, there are two testicles, and they are the site of sperm and testosterone production.
Testicles hang outside of the body, which keeps them about 2°C lower in temperature than the rest of the body. This ensures an ideal temperature for sperm production, which happens in the seminiferous tubules of each testicle. There are around 700 of these coiled tubes inside each testis. Other important anatomical parts include:
Because the testicles are located outside of the body, they are vulnerable to getting hurt more easily than other reproductive organs. Though the scrotum offers some protection in terms of thermoregulation, there are no bones or muscles to safeguard against blunt force or penetrating injuries.
Studies show blunt trauma accounts for 85% of testicular injuries, with penetrating injuries accounting for 15%. Blunt trauma refers to getting kicked or struck by an object, while penetrating injuries result from items that pierce through the skin, like knives or bullets. Car, motorcycle, or bicycle collisions can also result in testicular impact, as well as animal bites or machinery accidents.
Types of testicular injuries include:
In some cases, an injury will lead to an infection or inflammation of the testicles or related areas, like the epididymis.
One of the most obvious symptoms of a testicular injury is pain, which may spread as far as the abdomen. Other symptoms include:
If the testicular injury is mild, your doctor may recommend that you apply ice, take an over-the-counter pain reliever, and avoid strenuous activity. If their examination reveals there is an infection, they might also prescribe antibiotics or medication to relieve inflammation.
In some cases, your doctor may order an MRI or ultrasound to ensure there are no significant internal injuries. If more treatment is needed, it could include surgical intervention.
Surgical treatments for testicular injuries depend on the trauma involved:
In rare cases, if the injury is too significant, your doctor may suggest removing the testicle in a procedure called an orchiectomy.
While painful, most of the time, a hit in the balls will not harm your fertility. But if the impact is significant or an unaddressed injury causes an infection, your fertility may be at risk. Here are some ways testicular trauma can affect your fertility:
It’s also important to remember that while external injury to a testicle can result in significant pain and damage, if one testicle is functioning normally, it should be able to produce adequate sperm and testosterone without the other. However, when infection or inflammation remain untreated, secondary problems may develop, putting your fertility at risk.
If you handle complex machinery at work or play contact sports in your spare time, there are a variety of ways you can protect yourself from scrotal injury. These include:
If you’ve experienced a testicular injury, it’s crucial you seek medical attention quickly. This 2019 study found testicular rupture was 80–90% “salvageable” when surgery occurred within 72 hours of the incident, decreasing to 40–50% from that point on.
Call your doctor if you experience any of the following:
You can’t always anticipate a testicular injury, but safety precautions can help. Another thing you can do to ensure an injury doesn’t impact your fertility is consider freezing your sperm. Legacy makes it easy to freeze your sperm in the comfort and privacy of your home with an easy mail-in kit and lets you keep it preserved for as long as you need, with flexible, affordable sperm storage plans.
Even if you’re not sure you want kids in the future, freezing your sperm while you’re young and healthy gives you peace of mind that should you want to take that path, it will be available to you. Not sure your sperm is young and healthy? Find out about sperm testing at home.
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