Love & Sex

A Doctor Explains Why Getting Kicked in the Balls Hurts So Damn Much

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The science of why all men fear heels.

It's widely known that getting kicked in the balls is absolutely one of the most terrible things that can happen to a pair of testicles. I have heard men describe the tell-tale pain as "vomit-inducing" and "sort of like witnessing a dog being run over." But why is this singular pain so unfortunate and so cringe-inducing? It has to be the go-to threat shouted at cheating boyfriends for a reason. Nerve spoke to Dr. Muhammad Mirza, founder of erectile doctor.com, about what, exactly, is happening down there when a foot meets a man's groin.

The Fast Pain

When a foot (or knee or fist or errant baseball) hits a pair of testicles, a signal is sent to the brain at approximately 265 miles per hour. The brain then responds and sends an alert down the spine, into both the groin and the abdomen. The testicles brew a batch of neurotransmitters called Substance P, which are associated with both pain and the inflammation processes. The balls send Substance P through the spinal column into the the part of the brain called the somatosensory cortex, which is responsible for processing physical sensations. In this case, the physical sensation is, "Oh my god, my balls."

The Nausea

What's particularly insidious and vicious about getting your testicles slammed by a foot, knee, or flying object is that the fun doesn't just stop with the searing pain. Next, the brain releases endorphins (this guy's testicles are on fire — let's relax him), leading to decreased oxygen levels within the brain. Of course, the decrease in oxygen causes a throbbing headache and sometimes nausea. Bellies and ball sacks share the same pain receptors, meaning that when a set of testicles is harmed, men often clutch their stomachs and bend over. "Falling to the ground and going into the fetal position," is common, Dr. Mirza assures.

Getting kicked in the nuts can also cause dizziness, as the inner ears might experience a flux in fluids. Which, again, encourages the crumpled-on-the-floor-like-a-fetus response. Stomach pain mixed with nausea with a twist of dizziness is also a perfect recipe for tossing cookies. Getting kicked in the nads can lead to puking, depending on the precision of the kicker (were they wearing Keds, stilettos, barefoot?) and the particular body of the kickee.

The Blood, Sweat, and Tears

An increased heart rate and increase in body temperature due to the trauma will often cause the kicked party to sweat. As the minutes pass, the injured balls will swell and the skin around the family jewels will appear red and feel sore to the touch. Dr Mirza explains, "for some, a part of the brain called the cervical sympathetic ganglia would be activated, which controls the salivary glands of the face, resulting in tearing or crying." See, boys do cry  — especially when their cajones have been compromised.

The Recovery

How does a man recover from such a swift and intense pain that usually lasts for about 15 minutes? Lay back. "While lying down on one's back, equilibrium can begin to be reestablished as blood can flow more easily to the brain," Dr Mirza explains. Lying down will restore oxygen to the brain, help with the pounding headache, diminish the nausea, as well as, you know, putting an end to any waterworks situations. However, if you have been throwing up last night's dinner and literally sweating your balls off, you might want to go for a post-ball-kick refreshment. By replenishing fluids the body lost through sweating and puking your way through the experience, it  will help make a speedy recovery.

Of course, depending on the severity of the kick, the anger of the kicker, and their chosen footwear, a guy and his plums could be in for worse. If the relative pain of the experience doesn't subside within 15 minutes, get thee and thy balls to a physician.

The Myths

Dr. Mirza explains that getting kicked in the balls hurts so damn much, and is a particularly unique kind of pain, because "the groin area has very little protection when compared to other parts of the body. The testicles themselves are fragile and have a very vulnerable shield against injury due to the absence of muscle tissue and bone to protect them." Not to mention, the ball-stomach pain connection makes things that much worse for the dangly bits.

Finally, we had to know, is getting kicked in the balls that much worse than other pain (as some men have claimed)? Nope, not really. (Sorry, dudes). While the testicles are a particularly fragile body part, all pain is relative. Ball pain, while strong, doesn't break any bones and is very short term. The pains from childbirth, even a broken nose, probably outweigh testicular injuries, Dr. Mirza says. "Childbirth has also been ranked as one of the most painful bodily experiences, second only to passing a kidney stone."  

Image via Flickr, 2, 3.

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