The Top Ways We Injure Our Genitals

Bicycles, razors, and zippers -- ranked in the name of public health

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Data just published in the Journal of Urology considers a decade of genitourinary injuries in American adults -- trauma that's "remarkable given its uniquely sensitive nature and possible reproductive consequences." Researchers at UCSF looked a national sample of emergency room visits tied to the (mis)use of consumer products, conducted by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, with the goal of understanding how such injuries might be prevented.

Since 2002, the number of incidences has remained more or less steady at about 16,000 per year. Here are the biggest things to watch out for, based on number of adults who report to U.S. emergency rooms with these injuries each year:

  1. Bicycles (1,212)
  2. Razors, scissors and clippers (1,089)
  3. Zippers (951)
  4. Bathroom falls and mishaps (818)
  5. Basketball (309)
  6. Baseball and softball (240)
  7. Skiing and snowboarding (182)

The injuries occurred with more frequency during summer months. And as might be imagined just from the list, men accounted for two-thirds of the E.R. visits. But women weren't exempt -- the number of infections and lacerations related to trimming and shaving increased five-fold from 2002 to 2010.

The database is open to the public and includes the attending physician's notes, describing how the injuries occurred. Creatively repurposed, they can also serve as useful cautionary tales -- an answer to the authors' call for "simple preventative measures." A few examples:

  • VAGINAL INJURY FROM SLIPPING AND HIGH HEEL SHOE WENT INTO VAGINA.
  • 5YOM WAS PLAYING WITH FIRECRACKER (TYPE P) & IT WENT UP HIS SHORTS & BURNED HIM.
  • PT WAS SWINGING HAMMER AND HIT SELF IN GROIN
  • AT A CLUB LAST NIGHT AND FELL OFF A SPEAKER LANDING ON THE EDGE OF THE SPEAKER, BRUISING R LABIA
  • 18 PT WAS AT A PARTY DANCING AND WAS ACCIDENTLY KNEED IN THE PENIS BY DANCE PARTNER CONTUSION PENIS

Other things to look out for are falling toilet seats, irritative soaps, or the variety of things that can go wrong "when trying to jump or step over a chair."

Lindsay Abrams is an assistant editor at Salon and a former writer and producer for The Atlantic's Health Channel.


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