A snapping sound is the last thing any man wants to hear during sex, especially if it comes from his penis. For a 32-year-old man who showed up at an emergency room in New Delhi, India, that nightmare came true, landing him in the pages of BMJ Case Reports.
According to the physicians who submitted the case study, the anonymous man was having “vigorous sexual intercourse” when he heard a “snapping sound,” immediately lost his erection, and felt a jolt of “severe pain.” In short, he broke his penis.
There are no bones in the human penis but it is still entirely possible to break the sex organ, as the graphic picture in the case study can attest. In the photo, which is not suitable for work or for the faint of heart, the man’s penis is engorged, bent, and purple—a condition that doctors call an “eggplant deformity.”
As the physicians explained in the case study, when a penis is erect and “undergoes a blunt trauma,” the penile shaft bends, and the tunica albuginea—a semi-elastic envelope of bundled collagen surrounding the erectile tissue—can be torn. The doctors were able to quickly diagnose the man’s penile fracture and, after locating the tear with an ultrasound, they drained the blood from his genitals and repaired the rupture surgically.
This man’s experience might sound like a freak accident but it is more common than we realize. Understandably, many men are probably reluctant to share a story about penile fracture with their friends. In fact, according to urologists, they are often shy about it when they show up at the hospital.
“Those affected are often reluctant to report the injury because of embarrassment,” urologists Dr. Michael Dinneen and Mohammad Massarani wrote in a 2007 summary of penile fracture for Trends in Urology, Gynaecology and Sexual Health. “They may be reticent in their history, but usually present early.”
In their primer, Dinneen and Massarani observe that penile fracture is “under-reported, and certainly not as rare as has been claimed.” The most common way it happens during sexual intercourse, they note, is if the penis “slips out of the vagina” and is thrust either below the vulva into the perineum or above the vulva into a pubic joint.
As in the New Delhi man’s case, the painful fracture is often accompanied by a sound and a sudden loss of erection. After the rupture of the tunica albuginea is repaired, men are told to wait up to two months before resuming “penile manipulation.”
Unless there are severe complications, a man who breaks his penis can expect to regain full sexual function.
In 2015, for example, a 42-year-old man reported to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston with a “classic eggplant deformity.” His case, described by Dr. Robert J. Hartman in the New England Journal of Medicine, was fairly standard: a penile fracture accompanied by a “snap” sound, caused by collision with the perineum while fully erect. The patient underwent surgery, was discharged the next morning, and his penis was still straight three and six months later at his follow-up visits.
Both the Bostonian and the New Delhi man are fortunate that they were treated without incident.
In more complicated cases, Dinneen and Massarani note, the penis can remain curved or develop plaque. Depending on the type of fracture, the man’s urethra can also be severely damaged, requiring more complex surgery. Some men who experience the condition more than once may have to take a sedative or even estrogen in order to “suppress spontaneous erections during convalescence” from the surgery.
For now, the anonymous 32-year-old’s graphic picture will live forever as a cautionary tale for all future penis-breakers: Don’t be shy and get to the hospital—fast.