Scrotum Self-Repair

Sometimes a staple gun can be a man's best friend

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Your Citation
Emery, David. "Scrotum Self-Repair." ThoughtCo, Aug. 23, 2016, Emery, David. (2016, August 23). Scrotum Self-Repair. Retrieved from Emery, David. "Scrotum Self-Repair." ThoughtCo. (accessed October 24, 2017).
Staple Gun
Introducing a valuable on-the-job surgical tool, the staple gun!. Martin Hospach/Getty Images

Synopsis: Man arrives at hospital with scrotum swollen to twice the size of a grapefruit. The doctors examining him find he has one testicle missing and a gaping wound that appears to be held together by staples. Then he tells them his story...

Description: Viral story
Circulating since: 1991
Status: True


When a 40-year old man arrived at a hospital asking to see a doctor specializing in "men's troubles", he was shown to a cubicle. There, he gingerly unwrapped three yards of foul smelling, stained gauze from around his scrotum, which had swollen to twice the size of a grapefruit.

On further inspection, it was discovered that his left testicle was missing completely and, embedded within the swollen, tender and weeping wound, were a number of dark objects which the patient confessed were one inch staple nails from an industrial staple gun.

It transpired that the man spent lunchtimes alone in the workshop, where he regularly enjoyed the sexual thrill of placing his penis on the moving canvas fan belt of a piece of machinery. One day, the excitement had caused him to lose his concentration and the fan-belt had snatched his scrotum into the fly-wheel, throwing him several feet across the floor and removing his left testicle. Rather than go to hospital, he self-administered first aid using a staple gun and then continued work when his colleagues returned. It was two weeks before he got around to visiting the hospital.

— Received via forwarded email

Analysis: It's tempting to dismiss this grisly story as a prurient joke, but we have it on good authority — that of attending physician Dr. William A. Morton, Jr., who penned a now-famous journal article on the case in 1991 — that the incident really happened. David Herzog, a reporter for the Allentown Morning Call, confirmed the details of the case with Morton in 1992. Morton's article, a dubious claim to fame if there ever was one, originally appeared in the journal Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality.

The text of that article has circulated via fax, forwarded email and social media ever since, spawning a great many shorter, less accurate versions of the story (such as the one above) in the process. It's irresistable, let's face it.

From grapefruit to basketball

Thanks to the Internet, "Scrotum Self-Repair" has enjoyed such a wide distribution that folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand saw fit to include it in his 1999 omnibus of urban legends Too Good to Be True, citing word-of-mouth variations (e.g., "the scrotum is said to have swollen to the size of a basketball") that have spun off from Dr. Morton's original published text.

Interestingly, many of those spoken-word variants had been conveyed by doctors and medical students who had themselves heard them on the job. For such a science-based calling, the medical profession is a hotbed of urban legendry.

Probably the main reason the story captures people's imaginations so is that it revolves around what is essentially an act of masturbation — and no ordinary act of masturbation, at that.

So, it's a cautionary tale, of sorts, though I doubt very many people need to be instructed or reminded not to perform sexual acts on themselves (or on anyone else) in close proximity to power tools.

Among the most frequently asked questions about urban legends is whether they ever turn out to be true. Well, here you go. I'd be hard-pressed to come up with a better affirmative example than this.

Users (and abusers) of power tools beware!

Last updated 10/31/15