Newswise — As a parent, watching your son play sports encourages a variety of emotions: pride, excitement and fear. No parent wants to see his or her son injured on the field. But, it is hard to know at what age young boys should begin to protect their privates and start wearing a cup.

According to Dr. Anthony Atala, a pediatric urologist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina, a boy should wear an athletic supporter as soon as he is involved in any kind of activity that could lead to groin injury.

"It is extremely important for parents to understand how serious these injuries can be and how they can help their child if they suffer testicular trauma. We don't often discuss this, but we should " so that parents can help prevent injury and understand when to seek medical treatment if it does occur," said Dr. Atala.

Protective plastic inserts, or "cups," can be used to help prevent blunt trauma injury, and should be used whenever possible and available. It may be possible to special order a smaller size if necessary from your local sporting goods retailer. An athletic supporter binds the testicles and keeps them stationary and close to the body. To achieve this same result in younger children, for whom supporters might be too large, have them wear briefs instead of boxer shorts, and wear a tighter fit than usual. "Testicular injury can be very serious " and result in testicular loss if not treated in time. A testicle can be bruised from a blunt trauma to the area; there could be internal bleeding in the scrotum, testicular fracture, or even testicular rupture. Slapstick comedy may make groin injuries seem amusing, but they are no laughing matter. There are plenty of children out there who have lost a testicle because too much time elapsed between when their injury occurred and when they were treated," said Dr. Anthony Atala.

If your son complains of sudden and severe testicular pain and swelling on one side, he may have testicular torsion—a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. While very rare, testicular torsion can be very serious if not treated promptly. Testicular torsion occurs when the spermatic cord (a cord by which a testis is suspended in the scrotum) gets twisted, resulting in a decrease in blood supply to the testicle and surrounding structures. Torsion can result from scrotal trauma or strenuous exercise, but sometimes there is no obvious cause. Any sudden onset of severe testicular pain is a cause for concern and careful monitoring.

Impaired blood flow to the testicle can lead to tissue death and result in a non-functioning testicle that could become infected and ultimately require surgical removal. Take your son to the emergency room immediately if he complains of sudden and severe testicular pain with swelling on one side.

About the American Urological Association Foundation: Originally established in 1987, the Foundation is the premier provider and resource for the most current, comprehensive and reliable urologic health information. We advocate and educate to empower physicians and the public to progress toward the highest quality prevention, detection and treatment of urologic diseases. With the support and the strength of more than 16,000 physician members of the American Urological Association, the AUA Foundation strives to make certain that those who suffer from urologic conditions can enjoy the benefit of the highest level of care possible.

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