A man is not a father until a child steps on his testicles. It happens more often than you’d think. Dr. Barbara Bergin, an orthopedic surgeon, told Fatherly that she sees playful dads injured on the job regularly, presenting with everything from back injuries to black eyes. It’s not just because dads are tough as hell, she says. It’s because they like to show off. The consequences aren’t pretty.
“Fathers think they have to work out, play sports, and coach their children, in order for their kids to be fit and athletic. This is a prescription for injury,” Bergin told Fatherly. Alice Holland, a physical therapist, agrees. “Almost weekly I am evaluating someone who has a fatherly injury,” she says.
Fatherhood can do a lot of damage, but it doesn’t have to. Here are the most common dad injuries, and some advice on how to make sure those little feet land clear of your testicles, every single time:
Pulling Out Your Back
Picking up a growing, frequently wiggling human repeatedly is just unnatural, and all that bending can make dads feel like they’re about to break. “Leaning over a crib and lifting your child is extremely straining for your mid-low back,” physical therapist Vivian Eisenstadt told Fatherly. “Picking up your child from the floor is also straining, if done incorrectly.”
The damage can range from minor wear and tear to more serious issues. “There is a lot of sitting, there is a lot of feeding, there is a lot of putting strollers and car seats into the car with a twisted posture, there is a lot of bent-over time on the changing table and squatting by the bathtub,” Holland says. “All this puts a toll on parents’ backs and chronic back issues start there.”
Eisenstadt recommends keeping a wide stance and bending from the knees and hips whenever possible. Putting a sturdy, elevated area such as a step-up box near the crib could also give parents more room to use their glutes when picking babies. This could also lead to a pretty decent dad butt.
Rotator Cuff Problems
Dads frequently hurt their shoulders by throwing frisbees and attempting to throw perfect spirals, like they’re still in their twenties. But guess what? You’re not in your twenties. Ouch.
“One of the most common injuries I see are rotator cuff tears from too much throwing, or doing push-ups,” Bergin says. Over time, tissues that connect muscle to the shoulder wear away, making it more prone to tearing. When it does, the tendon detaches from the bone, There are more reasonable ways to build muscle and impress children, without putting your rotator cuffs in harm’s way — like by lifting them up, which you had to do anyways.
Tripping Over Toys
“I get fathers who trip over child toys more often than you would think,” Eisenstadt says.
Dads who step on Legos risk ankle injuries, knee injuries, and their kids hearing the F-word for the first time. Even life-threatening injuries are possible, if a father trips and falls down a flight of stairs.
Instead of falling to your death, or exposing your children to a torrent of colorful language, try cleaning up. “Designate an area for your child to play, and put a gate so that you can walk by without tripping over their toy.” And try wearing shoes in the house—again, you’re not in your twenties.
Getting Your Balls Stepped On
Dr. Christopher Hollingsworth, a surgeon, assures us that young children seldom hit their dads in the nuts on purpose. But there are worse fates in store for dad balls—young children sometimes step on them. Fortunately, this trauma usually doesn’t do any lasting (physical) damage. “They’re really not going to do any permanent damage to your testicles,” Hollingsworth told Fatherly.
But Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt, a urologist, has encountered some extreme cases. “I’ve seen trauma to the testicle go from a minor bruise to full out burst testicle where we have to take them for surgery immediately,” he says. Especially when dealing with bigger kids and soccer prodigies, dads need to be careful. Consider wearing a cup during sporting events (or for the rest of your life).
Meniscus strains and tears in the knees from too much running, jumping, and squatting are another very common dad injury. “Your child’s knees are much more resilient to injury,” Bergin explains. But adults are more susceptible to degenerative meniscus tears, as they age. They can be avoided, by not pushing yourself so damn hard. Trust us—your kid doesn’t need that level of energy.
“Have fun with your children and have an interest in whatever they want to do,” Bergin says. “But not feel that you have to participate in a sport with them in order for them to take interest or to be good at it. It may backfire.”
“Sports hernias are not something your kid injures, but it’s something you can get from playing with them, running around, playing sports, coaching,” Hollingsworth told Fatherly.
Sports hernias are like regular hernias, but because it affects a different tissue they do not display an obvious bulge. Men that have them experience pain on one or both sides groin when they pick up their kids, or engage in similar physical activity. Sports hernias are usually treated with physical therapy, but occasionally require surgery. Sports hernias can be partially avoided with regular exercise (without overdoing it), as well as drinking plenty of water, and going to the bathroom when you have the urge, instead of holding it. This can be a challenging combination.
The Occasional Bloody Nose or Black Eye
No matter how much kids love their dads, it’s only a matter of time before they accidentally elbow, punch, or head-butt their old man in the face. The bad news is that you can’t prevent it. The good news is that it’s unlikely to be serious. “It’s pretty frequent that they might hit or head-butt you in the face, but usually those injuries are pretty self-limiting,” Hollingsworth says. Self-limiting and self-humiliating, apparently. “Dads aren’t going to tell anybody else about it.”