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What Is Testicular Torsion?

Adam England describes his experience with testicular torsion as a teenager, and the impact the condition had on his mental health.

Ever heard of testicular torsion? Not many people have, but it’s a condition where the spermatic cord, which provides blood flow to the testicle, rotates and becomes twisted. It’s an emergency condition, causes extreme pain, and requires immediate surgery to correct in order to save the testicle.

And no, when I got it at the age of 14 (it’s most common in 12-18-year-olds), I’d never heard of it either. One minute I was enjoying the start of the school holidays and looking forward to Christmas, the next I had an excruciating pain in my testicle, so bad that I couldn’t stay in the same position for long and was throwing up sporadically.

What followed was one of the worst days of my life. I was taken to A&E, transferred to a neighbouring hospital and then finally had emergency surgery to save my testicle. Sitting up in my hospital bed eating toast after the operation, it felt surreal. More so when I was discharged later that day, a protective contraption wrapped round my scrotum, and told I couldn’t masturbate for a few weeks.

It turned out that I had something called a ‘bell-clapper deformity’ (the usual cause of testicular torsion), where the testicles are not properly attached to the scrotum, allowing them to move around more than they should and making it easy for them to twist. It affects one in a few thousand males each year, but it’s not something we often hear about.

Testicular torsion and mental health

While recovering, I couldn’t exert myself too much physically. This meant I wasn’t able to keep fit as I was used to doing, and of course I couldn’t masturbate either – not the greatest situation for a teenage boy to be in. Eventually, I caved in and gingerly tried to masturbate, and was met with blood in my urine later on that day, which put paid to that plan. But within a few weeks I was physically healed and could resume normal service. The mental effects, however, lingered much longer.

Looking back, this was around the time that I developed symptoms of depression and anxiety, which I still live with to this day. Adolescence is difficult enough without throwing testicular torsion into the mix, and as a young man it threw up questions around my sense of masculinity – questions I was unable to answer at the time. Am I a ‘normal’ male? Am I masculine enough? Am I ‘less of a man’? Particularly, because it was around this time that I was realising I wasn’t 100% straight too.

I don’t consider testicular torsion to be the root cause of my mental health issues, but it definitely had a huge impact, one that I couldn’t shake off for years. I was a pretty insecure teenager, and all of this at once felt like a bit of a sucker punch. There are certain experiences and milestones you’re well-prepared for as you grow up, but as testicular torsion came out of the blue for me, it was something I couldn’t prepare for.

Testicular torsion and sex life

A year or two after the operation, I started having girlfriends and becoming sexually active. Despite this, I was paranoid I might do more damage to my testicles – to me it felt as if they were a ticking time bomb ready to twist at any moment. I knew deep down that having testicular torsion a second time is generally unlikely, as part of the operation centred around securing my testicles ‘in place’. But I was still hesitant to lose my virginity at a time when it felt like all my friends were having sex. Being a virgin as I left for university was embarrassing, as was playing games like ‘Never Have I Ever’ and being riddled with anxiety that people would think of me as extremely vanilla.

It took me until I was 19 to actually have sex, and unsurprisingly nothing too serious happened. It was a huge weight off my shoulders, and it felt as if I was able to put the whole ordeal to rest. It took the best part of five years for this to happen, however, encompassing the bulk of my teenage years.

Would I have coped better in the aftermath if there was more written about the condition? Definitely – and when I mentioned the ordeal to people afterwards a few told me that their partner, brother, son or friend had also experienced testicular torsion. It affects more people than you think.

Can you ejaculate with testicular torsion?

In theory, you can still ejaculate with testicular torsion. However, you’re going to be in so much pain that ejaculation will be the least of your worries. As I mentioned, I wasn’t able to masturbate for a few weeks as part of the healing process, but there’s nothing about testicular torsion itself that directly prevents you from ejaculating.

Can masturbation cause testicular torsion?

I was a little worried that my torsion had been caused by masturbation, but it’s unlikely that masturbation causes testicular torsion. It can occur after strenuous activity, and studies have suggested that the rotation of the testes during ejaculation may increase the likelihood of testicular torsion. However, it’s a minor risk that probably isn’t worth thinking about.

Keep masturbating safely – i.e. don’t be too strenuous – and you won’t have to worry about testicular torsion. However, if the worst does happen for whatever reason, it’s not the end of the world. At the time, I was scared, but I was only 14. The main thing to remember is that, despite the pain, it’s not life-threatening. Just take it easy if it happens, and don’t be afraid to be open about your experience.


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