Here we go.
Ladies, this one’s not for the squeamish. I will use the word testicle thirteen more times after this sentence is over. This is thirteen more times than I ever thought appropriate or possible. I can’t promise that I won’t wince writing this. I can’t promise that you won’t wince reading it. I can’t promise that I won’t make puns out of genitalia references. But I can promise you’re going to know more about testicles than you ever have before. We’re in this together.
And we’re going to have a ball.
So here it goes: Just how much does it hurt to get hit in the testicles, and why?
For starters, pain is a hard thing to measure.
Luckily, British scientists stuck someone in an MRI and poked him until he said Uncle. Meanwhile someone behind the curtain kept an eye on the blood flow in specific regions of his brain. This blood flow let the scientists know when he was in pain, and then decided to measure this pain with a unit called a Del.
So how many Dels could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
Cha Cha is an online and mobile researching service, and Cha Cha would have us believe that being kicked in the testicles can deliver Del’s in range of 9000. Consider with me that the human body can only bear 45 Dels and that giving birth has been recorded somewhere around 57 Dels. Therefore, ChaCha would have us believe that being kicked in the testicles is the rough equivalent of giving birth to 160 children—simultaneously.
While I think that ChaCha is nuts, this doesn’t phase my curiosity. Why is this experience so painful?
It all starts in the abdomen. Daven Hiskey takes on blogging on this topic, explaining the nuts and bolts of the nuts and bolts. He says that when testes form, they form in the abdomen, near both the stomach and kidneys. When the testicles descend (testicles apparently do this), a lot of their nerves and blood vessels are left behind in the stomach. Each testicle ends up with a primary nerve called a spermatic plexus. The spermatic plexus (aside from sounding like an unfortunately combination of a washing machine and luxury vehicle) has the job of carrying the signals of pain to the abdominal cavity.
Unfortunately there’s not a lot your body does for you once you receive a kick in the testicles. The pain that starts in your abdomen doesn’t take long to reach your spinal column, who says, “Sorry, bro” and sends it to your sympathetic nervous system. (Apparently by now even your nervous system feels bad for you.) The somatosensory cortex is the guy who ends up with it, and he’s the part of your brain that registers physical sensation. Dude means well, but your somatosensory cortex is not much of a problem solver. He realizes that this really sucks for you and releases some endorphins. Unfortunately, Men’s Health likens this to “treating a gun shot wound with a hug.” This release of endorphins also makes your eyes water, fills your ears with fluid, and deprives your brain of oxygen. You end up with watery eyes, a headache, and a good case of nausea.
From a medical perspective, The Online Medscape Reference manual suggests that you man up. No matter how traumatized you feel, “Despite the vulnerable position of the testicles, actual testicular trauma is relatively uncommon.” Most injuries to the testicles would qualify only as “unilateral blunt injuries” which comprise 85% of the cases serious enough for hospitalization. Dislocation, which occurs when the forces near approximately 50kg, occurs in less than a very unlucky 0.5% of cases.
For anyone who’s accidentally (or purposefully) delivered one of these fateful blows, you may have wondered why allow such vital organs to be so vulnerable and other questions that might get you off the hook while he’s writhing in pain on the floor. Here’s a fact you won’t be able to share with anyone in civilized company. Hilary Jones, also known as the NetDoctor, explains that one of two the main functions of the testicles is sperm production. Sperm production occurs at the optimum temperature of 2 degrees lower than the rest of the body. You know how it is with real estate: location, location, location. Dr. Hilary (who has never been kicked in the testicles) says that despite intense pain, usually the consequences are short-term, limited to bruising and swelling. Her cure? Warm baths, painkillers, and supportive underwear.
There is, of course, another way.
American gladiator and MMA fighter Justice Smith worked with Sports Science to set the record in blunt testicular trauma. The 22mph blow is said to have delivered upwards of 1,100lbs of force. How is this possible? Sports Science says that he had a secret weapon: “Wolff’s Law.” Julius Wolff, a German anatomist of the late nineteenth century, was the one to essentially prove that both soft and hard tissues adapt to stress over time. Leave it to the Germans.
According to Sports Science, Smith came across this little law and proceeded to be kicked in the testicles, repeatedly, for years. Luckily for Smith, Wolff was a smart enough guy; when Smith received his world-renown kick, only about 10% of the neuropeptides that were supposed to signal pain were active.