Readers of Men’s Health often hear about how to avoid common injuries at the gym. We all know about protecting our knees, proper stretching, and tennis elbow. But what about less common injuries? Here is a piece of “guy wisdom” that may make you flinch but you’ll be glad you know it if you are in a “pinch”!
Any parent of a young boy could encounter this problem, but make no mistake: embarrassing as it may be, it happens to adults, too. One moment you are zipping up or down (80% of injuries occur zipping up, so don’t rush) and the next moment there’s a howl of pain when the zipper snags a bit of skin on your penis or scrotum. Now what?
Well, this is no time for a lesson in zipper technology (we’ll get to that later). It’s time for immediate action:
First, assess the damage. If there is bleeding or possible trauma to the urethra (the passage way out!), get emergency medical care immediately.
If the problem appears to be a “simple” snag, ice may reduce swelling and provide some pain relief while you attempt to release the trapped organ. Here’s how: apply a generous amount of mineral oil to the zipper. Then—very, very gently—try unzipping the zipper; if it will not budge, do not tug or force it.
At this point, you may need a doctor’s help. Before heading off to the ER, try cutting the zipper out of the pants, this will help prevent additional discomfort. (If possible, cut only the fabric tape of the zipper itself so a new zipper can later be inserted into your once-favorite pants.)
Since you are on your way to the doctor, here’s a quick overview of zipper technology. Knowing how the zipper works is critical to freeing your penis and you cannot count on the doctor knowing this random and useful information.
The zipper is made up of two rows of meshing teeth (ouch!), which may be metal, nylon or plastic. (By the way, newer nylon and plastic zippers cause fewer snag injuries.) There are metal stops at the top and bottom of the zipper and a slider, with a movable tab, that engages the teeth. The slider has two faceplates—one on the outside of the zipper and one on the inside—that are connected by a small median bar. These details are good for the doctor on call to know, so save this article!
In the ER, the doctor will clean the skin and may apply a local anesthetic. There are several methods of releasing the zipper. One is to use orthopedic cutters, wire cutters or even a small hacksaw to cut the median bar between the two faceplates of the zipper slide. Another is to insert a small flathead screwdriver or the tongs of two sturdy surgical towel clamps between the faceplates and with a twisting motion to pry apart the halves of the slider. Both methods allow the zipper teeth to disengage (unclench!) and release the entrapped skin. Depending on the position of the zipper and the penis, it may be preferable to cut across the zipper and disengage the teeth from below. Either way, knowledge of zipper anatomy will help you gain freedom as fast and as safely as possible.
When the snagged skin is released, the doctor will examine your injured best friend for injury, apply additional antiseptic and may recommend a tetanus shot. Serious injury or the need for surgical intervention is actually very rare.
The easiest method for preventing this uncomfortable problem: wearing undergarments (no more going commando for you) and making sure your penis is tucked safely inside your undies BEFORE zipping up. And of course, you can always consider button-fly!
[Image source: flickr]