Ask Dr. Jake: Can You Break Your Penis? 4 Real-Life ER Cases


Jake Deutsch, M.D., is a veteran ER doctor and a contributor to The Daily Details. Send your health questions to We'll publish the answers here every week.

In the hospital, there's a trauma code that alerts me when there's a patient with a potentially serious injury. In a typical day, I may treat a broken ankle, a laceration, and the occasional concussion—no big deal for a veteran ER doc. Yet even with a decade of experience under my beltless scrubs, I have to mentally prepare myself for the delicate situation that arises when an emergency involves a certain part of the male anatomy.

Family-jewels mishaps range from peircings gone wrong to pelvis fractures that can butterfly the man shrimp in half. (Side note: When it comes to an injury to our manhood, size does not matter.) Here are four cases every dude should know about.

Zip It
Remember Ben Stiller's unfortunate pre-prom accident in There's Something About Mary? We all laughed, but one reason men's jeans have button flies is to avoid what is, without a doubt, the most common schlong snafu. In fact, a recent study of genitalia injuries (yes, such studies exist) found that zipper teeth send more men to the ER for penile accidents than anything else. How do I handle cases like this? The key to a free Willy is lubrication and steady traction. Excessive stimulation may make the trouser snake bigger and harder to extricate. And I always place the patient in a private room—no curtain can silence these screams.

Break a (Third) Leg
Even though there's no bone in a boner, you can still "break" the corpus cavernosum, the part of the shaft that fills with blood when erect. This is often caused by acrobatic sex or compulsive masturbation. Excessive downward torque on the man hammer can tear the tissue, resulting in a snapping sound and a decidedly magicless Johnson. Without getting too graphic, there will be blood and lots of bruising. Luckily, there's no cast, but a penis fracture means no playing "hide the salami" for six weeks.

Don't Get Yours Nuts in a Knot
The boys are actually tethered quite delicately to the sac, and occasionally a guy's nuts will spontaneously twist and cut off their own blood supply (a.k.a. torsion). There's no mistaking the symptoms: sudden pain followed by one cajone lying sideways instead of swinging north and south. Emergency surgery is the treatment. Wait too long and you'll wind up with a dead testicle and a prosthetic metal nut. As a concept, brass balls are admirable, but try convincing airport security that it's your titanium testes setting off the alarm.

Quit While You're Ahead
Ads for erectile-dysfunction medications (like Viagra and Cialis) always advise seeking medical attention if a stiffy doesn't subside after four hours. Too much of a good thing can be very, very bad. Excessive pressure can damage nerves, which may result in permanent impotence. Treatment involves stabbing the main vein with a large needle, Pulp Fiction-style, and then tapping the blood out. While there are only about a hundred reported cases of this every year, you only have to treat it once to be scarred for life.

—Dr. Jake Deutsch is an New York City-based ER doctor. Follow him at @DrJakeDeutsch.

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Photo courtesy of Corbis
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