Don’t get it twisted: An 11-year-old Chinese boy lost a testicle after it rotated 540 degrees, lost all blood flow and died. Seriously.
The technical term for this horrifying-but-true tragedy is “testicular torsion.” According to the American Urological Association, it can happen after an injury to the scrotum or following strenuous exercise—or even while you sleep.
Don’t start freaking out, though. Testicular torsion doesn’t happen often, affecting about 1 in every 4,000 males. It’s far more likely to happen to guys who are around puberty or are significantly older.
So how does it happen? When the tissue surrounding the ball is weak and not fully adjoined to the scrotum, it can allow the testicle to twist. As it rotates, it pulls the spermatic cord, a connected mass of fibers that supplies blood to the testicle. If the spermatic cord wraps around itself too many times, blood flow to the testicle ceases and the testicle dies in as little as two hours.
The boy was admitted to the hospital after he started walking with a painful limp for some time. Doctors in the Hangzhou hospital said the pain from his twisted testicle was generating immense pain. Can you even imagine?
Get ready to squirm: When they operated, they found the testicle was so squeezed, it had burst open at the base slightly.
Dr. Chen Guangjie, from the Zhejiang University School of Medicine, reportedly informed the boy’s parents they had to remove the dead testicle and that the child’s odds of having children would likely be diminished as a result.
“Generally speaking,” Chen said, “Six hours after testicular torsion, patients lose the ability to produce sperm. If the angle of twist is 90-degrees, the testis will die in a week; at 180-degrees, the testis will die in three to four days. If it’s 360-degrees, 12 to 24 hours and if the spermatic cord twist exceeds 720-degrees, the testis will die within two hours.”
Takeaway: If you wake up with extreme ball pain, don’t—ahem—sleep on it. Call a doctor immediately and get that puppy untwisted fast.