Geisinger study finds protective cup use rare among young male athletes
Only 13 percent of high school, college athletes said they wear one
DANVILLE, PA -- A study by Geisinger Health System urologists provides evidence that young male athletes don’t properly protect themselves against testicular injury. Less than 13 percent of the study’s more than 700 high school and college male athletes said they wear a protective athletic cup.
Joel Sumfest, M.D. (at right), a Geisinger urologist; and Jared M. Bieniek, M.D., a former urology resident who now works for Hartford HealthCare Medical Group, co-authored the study, which was cited in the September Journal of Urology.
The Geisinger doctors conducted the study after treating some severe testicular injuries among local athletes.
“What prompted our study is that we had a series of rather severe injuries that required surgery,” Dr. Sumfest said. “There were probably four of them within the space of a year, which is an unusually high incidence.”
After receiving proper consent, 1,700 surveys were self-administered to male athletes at three area high schools and two colleges, and 731 were returned. The average age of the respondents was 17.
Across all sports, 18 percent of athletes experienced a testicular injury and 36.4 percent observed injuries in team members, yet only 12.9 percent of respondents reported wearing athletic cups.
The prevalence of testicular injuries was highest for lacrosse, wrestling, baseball and football at 48.5, 32.8, 21, and 17.8 percent respectively.
While football is only fourth-highest in the incident of testicular injuries, Dr. Sumfest says it typically produces the most severe injuries. He urges football coaches to make protective cup use mandatory.
“I think football should be concerned about the athlete’s safety,” he said. “People are bigger, faster, stronger, and it’s very violent, and that’s where these injuries occur – in both practice and games. In fact a lot of these severe injuries happened during practice.”
Among athletes reporting a prior injury, only 20.1 percent still reported wearing a cup now. College athletes were even less likely to wear one.
“I don’t know if there’s invincibility, but it’s painfully clear that today’s millennial generation approaches wearing a protective cup differently than past generations,” Dr. Sumfest said. “As I remember back, we wore cups all of the time, but it’s different now.”
The doctors are authoring a second paper on the reasons the athletes chose not to wear a protective cup. Preliminary results cited these reasons:
- I did not know about it
- It’s uncomfortable and I play worse wearing it
- Nobody told me to wear it
- I had no access to a protective cup
Dr. Sumfest hopes that these results will lead to parents, coaches and physicians counseling male athletes on the proper usage of a protective cup in sports.
Geisinger is committed to making better health easier for the more than 1 million people it serves. Founded more than 100 years ago by Abigail Geisinger, the system now includes 10 hospital campuses, a health plan with more than half a million members, a research institute and the Geisinger College of Health Sciences, which includes schools of medicine, nursing and graduate education. With more than 25,000 employees and 1,700+ employed physicians, Geisinger boosts its hometown economies in Pennsylvania by billions of dollars annually. Learn more at geisinger.org or connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.