Can you really break a penis?

What do Sloane from Grey’s Anatomy, Schmidt from the New Girl and Johnny Knoxville from real life all have in common? Their broken penises, of course. The spectre of this grim-sounding injury haunts all sexually active penis-sporters. But can you really break a penis? It’s the question on everyone’s lips, and the answer is… Well, sort of. 

How do you break a boner? 

For something called a boner, there sure aren’t a lot of bones in the penis—zero, to be precise. When people talk about a broken penis, they’re actually referring to an unfortunate injury called a “penis (or penile) fracture”. 

A penile fracture is a serious form of bending injury to the erect penis that occurs when a membrane called the tunica albuginea tears. The tunica albuginea is what separates the spongey tissue in the centre of the penis (which fills up with blood during an erection) from the rest of the penile tissue. When the tunica albuginea tears, blood leaks out into the rest of the penis where it doesn’t belong, causing swelling and bruising. 

Almost all penile fractures occur during sexual intercourse, since they occur when an erect penis is subjected to forceful impact. They differ from usual fractures, of course, since there are no bones in the penis to break. But those unlucky enough to testify say that the pain is just as extreme. 

Can you fix it? 

The treatment for the earliest recorded penile fracture, which appears in medical literature at the end of the first millennium was developed by a Spanish surgeon named Abul Kasim. He recommended a non-surgical treatment which involved inserting the fractured member into a (disembodied) goose's neck, and wrapping it up for about 3 days until it healed. Nice. 

These days, few people can get away without having an operation because generally, not operating on a fractured penis increases the likelihood of future complications like scarring, erectile dysfunction or penile deviation. 

After mercifully administering a general anaesthetic, doctors make incisions in the skin of the patient’s penis, find the edge of the internal tear and suture it back together. Penile tears are usually crosswise - think the rings on a tree - and can span halfway around the penis. Ouch.

The operation only takes about an hour, and most people go home straight away. Penetrative sex is off the cards for about a month, until the wound is fully healed. 

How do you know if you’ve broken your penis? 

Usually there will be a popping sound at the time of the injury. If this happens and you experience severe pain in the penis, especially accompanied by bruising, swelling and loss of your erection, seek emergency care. 

How can you minimise the risk of penile fracture? 

The sex position that most commonly leads to penile fracture is doggy style. Forty percent of broken penises are sustained this way, because of the risk of slippage and slamming into the rigid perineum. The next-riskiest is the classic missionary, followed by reverse-cowgirl, because of the angulation. Certainly something to keep in mind if the idea of a fractured member doesn’t appeal.

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