When should a boy or young man wear an athletic cup? Always when playing a sport that could cause a genital injury & testicular pain.
We all have experienced a time when a boy or man was injured in the genital area during a sporting event and we hear the crowd gasp. This is because most men know how much pain it can cause. Even women have an idea from movies, TV shows and conversations with men in their life–and from the afflicted athlete holding the area and obviously suffering.
But it can trigger more than testicular pain, it can also cause a significant genital injury. This can include internal bleeding, severe bruises, fracture of a testicle and more. The most serious injuries are testicular rupture, when the testicle smashes against the pubic bone and bleeds internally, and testicular torsion, which cuts off the flow of blood and requires immediate medical care.
A new school year has begun and that means the start of football, soccer and wrestling, three sports that can cause genital injuries and testicular pain. But it is not just fall sports; lacrosse and baseball also account for a high number of testicular injuries. In fact, it may come as a surprise that the sports in order of the highest to lowest rate of testicular injury are lacrosse, wrestling, baseball and football.
While sports-related genital injuries are not very common, they can cause more than testicular pain including some significant injuries, especially if not treated. The ideal situation is to avoid testicular injuries to begin with. Genital injuries are seen in higher numbers in those who play a contact sport without the proper protective gear.
A Geisinger Health System 2016 study published in the Journal of Urology found that only 12.9 percent of athletes wore an athletic cup. That same study showed that 18 percent of athletes have experienced a testicular injury. There are more reported injuries than those who are trying to protect themselves. I am here to try to educate male athletes and their parents of the importance of the right protection and what can result from that genital injury.
Finding the right athletic cup to avoid possible testicular pain
An athletic cup should be worn if a male is involved with any kind of activity that can cause a groin injury, regardless of his age. The cup is made of metal or plastic and has padding on the inside. A cup should be worn as soon as a young athlete’s testicles and penis are big enough to fit in one. The cup might have holes in it for airflow.
Boys and men usually wear an athletic supporter, or jockstrap, to hold the cup in place. This will keep the testicles stationary and close to the body. Younger boys can order a smaller size cup than what stores might usually stock, and they can wear briefs instead of boxers to have a tighter fit.
In addition to holding a cup in place, wearing a jockstrap or compression shorts can help keep the testicles pressed against the body. While they are not as protective as a cup, they are better than no support for use in contact sports. They can also be used to prevent jostling around of the testicles in sports like running, basketball and skating. For contact sports, I always recommend taking the extra step of the full security of a cup.
Over the years, manufacturers of genital cups have made many improvements, and now there are many options that are cushioned making a cup more comfortable to wear. Many athletes don’t wear a protective cup because it is uncomfortable or because they feel it restricts their movement. But that’s not a good reason to refuse sensible protection.
Types of genital injuries in sports and treatments
Testicular injuries can be very serious and in worse case scenarios can result in the loss of a testicle if not treated correctly. The types of genital injuries that can occur in sports include:
- Epididymitis – causing the epididymis, the tube that holds the sperm after leaving the testicles, to become inflamed or infected.
- Hematoma – a blood clot that can cause bruising on the surface or within the testicle.
- Scrotal or testicular contusion – injury in the blood vessels that causes internal bleeding in the respective area.
- Testicular rupture – blood and other contents leak into the scrotum from the testicles after contact causes one or both to smash against the pubic bone.
- Dislocation – pushing the testicle out of the scrotum.
- Degloving – The scrotum is torn away.
- Testicular torsion – at least one testicle gets twisted inside the scrotum, cutting off the flow of blood. This requires emergency treatment.
Treating testicular trauma
At home treatments for testicular trauma include icing the scrotum, resting, over-the-counter pain medication, and wearing supportive underwear. Surgery is needed at times especially in testicular torsion and dislocation cases.
But if your son experiences any of the following symptoms, it is time to visit a urologist:
- Blood in the urine.
- Trouble urinating.
Some problems can cause serious complications. Seeing your doctor promptly can reduce the chances of serious complications. Some complications include the need for the testicle to be removed, the testicle shrinking or infertility.
Our urologists can handle these issues without referring to another provider if advance treatments are necessary.