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You can break your penis — it’s also known as a penile fracture. And it’s most likely to happen when you have an erection, during sexual activity.

When you get an erection, blood fills the spaces in two tube-like chambers in your penis, which are called the corpora cavernosa.

 

Cross-section of penis

 

The corpora cavernosa swell as they fill with blood, stretching the fibrous tissue that surrounds them, which is called the tunica albuginea.

The filling of the corpora cavernosa and stretching of the tunica albuginea make your penis hard1. If your penis is knocked hard enough, or you try to bend it, the tunica can tear and the cavernosa can push through it.

Men who fracture their penises say they hear a loud pop or snapping or popping sound and feel immediate pain. Blood vessels in the cavernosa usually rupture and cause bruising and swelling straight away. If the tissue around the tunica albuginea also ruptures, blood can pass into the scrotum or abdominal cavity.

One or both of your corpora cavernosa may rupture and, in some men, the corpus spongiosum (a column of spongy tissue that runs through the body and head of the penis) and urethra can be damaged.

A fractured penis is best treated immediately, which usually involves surgery to repair the injury.

 

1Cheng et al., 2020. A new method to quantify penile erection hardness: real-time ultrasonic shear wave elastography. Translational Andrology and Urology

 


Answered by: Associate Professor Tim Moss

healthy-male-health-content-manager-tim-mossAssociate Professor Tim Moss has PhD in physiology and more than 20-years’ experience as a biomedical research scientist. Tim stepped away from his successful academic career at the end of 2019, to apply his skills in turning complicated scientific and medical knowledge into information that all people can use to improve their health and well being.

Tim has written for crikey.com and Scientific American’s Observations blog, which is far more interesting than his authorship of over 150 academic publications. He has studied science communication at the Alan Alda Centre for Communicating Science in New York, and at the Department of Biological Engineering Communication Lab at MIT in Boston.

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