Television shows and movies may portray people getting hit in the crotch as comical, but it's a serious issue that sends almost 16,000 men and women to U.S. emergency rooms every year, according to a study.
Bicycles, furniture and clothing are all items blamed for the injuries, which can go on to cause people physical, psychological and reproductive problems later on, said senior author Benjamin Breyer, an assistant professor of urology at the University of California, San Francisco.
"To put this in perspective, the yearly incidence of these (injuries) is almost twice as much as dental injuries, and about the same as electrical and chemical burns," Breyer added.
In the past, most research looked at severe genital and urinary tract injuries caused by major trauma, such as car accidents. For the new study, which appeared in The Journal of Urology, Breyer and his colleagues decided to look at those injuries thought to be caused by common consumer products.
The team analyzed a national database of emergency room visits caused by consumer products, identifying all genital injuries to men and women 18 years and older between 2002 and 2010.
The injured body parts included, among other things, penises, testicles, bladders, kidneys and external female genitalia.
Overall, 142,143 injuries sent people to an emergency room over the nine-year period, which worked out to about 15,794 per year - a number that didn't seem to change over time.
Sporting items were the most common cause of injuries among people of all ages. These included bicycles as well as basketball, soccer, football and baseball equipment.
Breyer said one example of damage from a sporting item is people falling forward on their bicycles and landing on the center bar. Padding or cushioning could help avoid injuries.
Other accidents involved clothing, shaving items and bathing products, including men catching their penises in zippers or people cutting themselves while trying to shave their pubic hair.
"I was surprised to find how many injuries from bicycles, personal grooming and bathrooms there were. Those to me were unexpected," Breyer said.
The types of injuries also differed by age and sex. Men were injured the most, accounting for about two thirds of the emergency room visits.
Young people were the most often injured, with 18 to 28 year olds making up roughly 40 percent of the visits. Older people sustained only about eight percent of the injuries, but were more likely to hurt themselves during everyday activities, such as taking a shower.
"The next step is to get a little more information on the actual injuries, what happens to the patients and the mechanism of how it happens," Breyer said, noting that this could be used to develop programs to prevent these injuries.