08 November 2012

Genital injuries on the increase

Bicycles, furniture and clothing are among the items blamed for genital injuries that send almost 16 000 men and women to emergency rooms every year.

Bicycles, furniture and clothing are among the items blamed for genital injuries that send almost 16 000 men and women to U.S. emergency rooms every year, according to a new study.

"To put this in perspective, the yearly incidence of these (injuries) is almost twice as much as dental injuries, and about the same (as) electrical and chemical burns," said the study's senior author, Dr Benjamin N Breyer of the University of California, San Francisco.

How the research was done

In the past, most research looked at severe genital and urinary tract injuries caused by major trauma, such as car accidents. For the new study, however, Dr Breyer and his colleagues looked at injuries caused by common consumer products.

Using a consumer products database, the researchers identified all genital injuries to men and women 18 years old and older between 2002 and 2010. The injured body parts included - among other things - penises, testicles, bladders, kidneys, and external female genitalia, such as the clitoris and labia.

Overall, 142 143 injuries sent people to an ER over the nine-year period, which worked out to about 15 794 per year - a rate that held fairly steady over time.

And with sporting items blamed for about 30% of the ER visits, they were the most common cause of injuries among people of all ages. The culprit sporting goods included bicycles as well as basketball, soccer, football and baseball equipment.

Dr Breyer said one example of damage from a sporting item is incurred when people fall forward on their bicycle and land on the centre bar. He added that padding or cushioning that bar could help prevent injuries.

Info to craft strategies

Other accidents involved clothing items, shaving items and bathing products - including men catching their penises in zippers or people cutting themselves while trying to shave their pubic hair.

"I was surprised to find how many injuries from bicycles, personal grooming and bathrooms there were. Those to me were unexpected," said Dr Breyer.

Types of injuries also differed by age and sex.

Men were injured the most - accounting for about two thirds of the ER visits.

When the researchers looked at age, young people were the most often injured, with 18 to 28 year olds making up roughly 40% of the visits.

Older people sustained only about 8% of the injuries but were more likely to hurt themselves during everyday activities, such as taking a shower.

That finding suggests fall prevention may be the best way to prevent these injuries in the elderly, the authors write.

Older people were also admitted to the hospital more often than any other age group, which Dr Breyer says could reflect that age group's overall health and the severity of their injuries.

"The next step is to get a little more information on the actual injuries, what happens to the patients and the mechanism of how it happened," said Dr Breyer.

Ultimately, he said the information can be used to craft strategies or programs to prevent genital injuries.

(Reuters Health, November 2012)

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