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The Deadly Science Behind Testicle Squeezing

An Irish teen went into cardiac arrest and was later put into a medically-induced coma after a schoolmate yanked on his testicles last week.
Photo by Artotem

Testicle squeezing is no laughing matter — in fact, it has fatal consequences for some people.

Last week, the Irish Mirror reported that a teen in Dublin went into cardiac arrest and was later put into a medically induced coma after a schoolmate squeezed on his testicles in a schoolyard prank-gone-wrong. Unfortunately, this is not the lone case of a ball squeezing leading to serious consequences, and several doctors agree that there is some not-so-funny business behind male funny business.


Dr. Lee Zhao, an assistant professor of Urology at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, told VICE News he believes the teen in Ireland suffered a vasovagal syncope response. Basically, the pain was intense enough to make him faint.

“[Vasovagal syncope] is a well known phenomenon in which the body overreacts when there’s a trauma, and it causes people to pass out,” he said.

Zhao said that aside from physical trauma, there are a variety of factors that could contribute to someone suffering from vasovagal syncope, including standing up too quickly, stress, lack of sleep, dehydration, and hunger.

While fainting is certainly common, Dr. Marc Bjurlin, a clinical instructor in Urologic Oncology at New York University who has done extensive research on the topic of scrotal injuries, told VICE News that this case is extremely rare.

“It’s very unusual for a normal 17-year-old adolescent to go into cardiac arrest,” he said.

Bjurlin could only speculate on what happened to the boy without knowledge of his prior medical history, but he believes the traumatic pain was enough to accelerate a pre-existing condition.

“If that’s true in the case, I suspect the boy had an underlying etiology and that the scrotal injury, perhaps from the pain, resulted in a vasovagal response which may have lowered his blood pressure and exacerbated a cardiac etiology,” Bjurlin said.

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The sheer pain response from having one’s testicles yanked is more than enough to exacerbate any number of underlying conditions, he said.

Dr. Deepak A. Kapoor, president of Advanced Urology Centers of New York, told VICE News that trauma to the body can be both emotional and physical, and that “such an assault on the genitalia, no matter what the intent, could certainly precipitate an episode from either mechanism.”

A severe trauma to the body may result in a drop in blood pressure, which could absolutely contribute to heart issues, he said.

When asked about the validity of Kapoor’s theory, Zhao agreed.

“Heart attacks are the second-most common cause of death in the United States,” he said. “Heart attacks are often induced by stress, and there are probably not many things more stressful than having your testicles squeezed.”

Death by Ball

While the incident was rare, the 17-year-old is not the first person to have his balls squeezed to near death.

Two years ago, a 42-year-old shop owner from Hainan, China, died after a woman squeezed his testicles too hard during a sidewalk altercation.

And despite being extremely uncommon, Zhao, Kapoor, and Bjurlin all confirmed that death by ball yank is definitely possible.

But what separates the shop owner’s case from the Irish teenager’s is age. Adults are simply more likely to experience heart attacks.

“I think the true link to the injury in causing the cardiac injury is that it’s likely that it caused the cardiac event, but it really just played a role in making a more serious underlying condition worse,” said Bjurlin.

Kapoor, who is also an associate professor of urology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, said that while the testicles are one of the most pain-sensitive areas of the male body, there are several others that are vulnerable to this degree of injury.

“This is the principle behind joint locks in martial arts, for example,” he said. “Relatively minor trauma to the head and face area are also capable of producing significant neurological harm as well, either from the injury itself or from inducing bleeding within the skull.”

No update on the boy’s status was made available at the time of publication, but one thing is clear: it’s definitely time to add “yanking testicles” to the list of funny ways to seriously maim or kill your friends.

Photo via Artotem