penis fracture

Penis Fracture is Real and Surprisingly Common

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Justin Lehmiller and Dr. Laurie Mintz. Dr. Lehmiller is a social psychologist, researcher and award-winning educator. Dr. Laurie Mintz is a professor, researcher, private practitioner and Fellow of the American Psychological Association.

How can you fracture something that has no bone? It may sound like a riddle, but we are here to explain just that. The penis is made of spongy tissue, blood vessels, and nerves, yet it can still get “fractured.” I won’t deny that a broken dick might invite a lot of joking, but it is no joking matter. A penis fracture is an uncommon but serious medical issue. It is in everyone’s best interest to prevent it.

Boneless Boners

You probably already know humans have no bone in their penis (although many animals actually do!), but what might come as a surprise is that it is an anomaly and a real mystery that we still don’t quite understand. A penis bone, called the baculum, is actually present in many species of mammals, including some of our closer primate relatives, such as great apes and chimpanzees. So why don’t humans have one? To understand why, we would need to know the purpose of the baculum to begin with, and that’s where the problems start.

It might have something to do with sexual competition and mating strategies, because species that are more competitive tend to have bigger penis bones. Yet every heterosexual guy who’s ever been in a nightclub with a low female count can attest that humans do not lack sexually competitive environments. It is possible that instead of the baculum, we developed other adaptations to mating competition, because our boneless members tend to be relatively large in comparison to our close relatives.

However, it is also possible that the penis bone simply disappeared in the course of human evolution because it wasn’t an adaptive trait. After all, a broken penis bone is something that would make sexual reproduction difficult (if not impossible), so maybe we’re better off without them?

What’s an Erection?

Before we explain how a penis fracture occurs, let’s start with some basic anatomy. Getting a “boner” (without an actual bone, of course) comes from our penises filling with blood. Specifically, blood fills two symmetrical chambers on each side of the penis called the corpora cavernosa, as well as the corpus spongiosum, which is the chamber underneath the corpora cavernosa that surrounds the urethra. Those then act as rods that give the phallus its desired shape, not unlike the bouncy inflatable castles you encounter at kids’ parties. On the inside, the chambers are divided from the rest of the penile tissue.

How Can You Fracture an Erect Penis?

If an engorged penis is bent suddenly or forcefully, the trauma can rupture the outer lining of one of the erectile cylinders. This can result in a penis fracture. To explain even more, trauma to an erect penis results in increased pressure in the erectile chambers. This increased pressure, in turn, can result in the rupture of the tunica albuginea, which is the outer lining of the cavernosa, and/or the corpus spongiosum.

What Type of Trauma Causes This?

The trauma is most often a byproduct of high-velocity sexual intercourse, such as when the penis slips out of the vagina or anus and is accidentally thrust into a partner’s pelvic bone or perineum. In fact, almost 60% of penile fractures occur this way. Some studies have found that certain sexual positions are linked to penis fracture: specifically, this is most likely to occur in the partner-on-top or rear-entry (“doggystyle”) positions. Other causes of penis fractures include rough, intense masturbation in which the penis is bent and falling and landing on an erect penis. Additionally, a cultural practice called taqaandan, in which the top of an erect penis is forcefully bent to relax an erection, can cause this. 

It’s a Medical Emergency!

A penis that has been fractured will bulge and appear purple. Other signs and symptoms of a penis fracture include:

  • Immediate penile pain
  • A popping or cracking sound
  • Rapid loss of erection
  • Swelling in the penile shaft
  • Discoloration of the penile shaft due to bleeding underneath the skin

Sometimes the tube that drains urine from the body (the urethra) is damaged as well, and blood might be visible at the urinary opening of the penis.

A penis fracture requires urgent medical attention. Prompt surgical repair is typically recommended to avoid long-term complications.

Left untreated, a penis fracture might result in a curved penis or the permanent inability to get or keep an erection firm enough for sex (erectile dysfunction).

So, while no one likes to think of their penis breaking, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms. If this rare occurrence happens to you, you know what to do–that is, get to the ER immediately!