Scrum-thing very painful on the pitch


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The Independent Online

If further evidence were needed of the superior toughness of rugby players, we present: Paul Wood's missing testicle. The Warrington Wolves prop played on after being kneed in the groin on Saturday, later joking about an operation that has left him about 15 grams lighter.

Other rugby and rugby league players have shaken off hits, most notably Wayne Shelford. During a 1986 match against France, the New Zealander's scrotum was torn open by French studs, giving one of his testicles an unwanted airing. Perhaps distracted by the four teeth he also lost, Shelford calmly asked touchline doctors to stitch him up. Only a subsequent punch in the head forced coaches to substitute him.

Does rugby present the greatest risk to an athlete's balls? "I'm not aware of a survey of the prevalence of testicular injuries in sport," Marcus Drake, senior lecturer in urology at the University of Bristol, says. "I would say rugby has an increased risk, while we might see more 'fall-astride' injuries among gymnasts."

Drake warns players that surgery can increase the risk of injury. "The dangly scrotum and testicles tend to get out of the way," he says. "Surgery can reduce that mobility."

Wood revealed yesterday he was seeking protection for his surviving testicle. Regardless, he would be advised against motorcycling. Drake says: "I saw one chap who smeared his testicles on a petrol tank."