The 8 Most Common Dad Injuries And What To Do When You Have One (Which You Will)

Everybody hurts.

by Jonathan Stern
Originally Published: 
mens health

You may not be at your college weight (or even your pre-kid weight), but you still have your pride and your soul, so you’re getting after it in one way or another. Still, each round of golf, game of softball, 5K, or trip to the gym reminds you that your body is no longer a wonderland. The lack of sleep, acceptance of dadbod, and general march of time has turned it into more of a sketchy parking lot carnival.

Dr. Darius Greenbacher, Medical Director for Sports and Exercise Medicine at Baystate/Tufts University, is 46, has kids, and often wonders, “How do you keep on going as a parent, professional, or aging dude?” It’s not a rhetorical question, given that he sees more guys like you come through his clinic than you want to know. And while you’ve heard his advice for maintenance before (doing one activity will over stress the stuff you use, so balance it out with other stuff, and for the love of God stretch for 15 minutes before starting), let’s cut to the chase: What injuries are you most likely to bring your local sports doc?

Here’s what Dr. Greenbacher sees most often, and how screwed you are if it happens to you:


There’s no shortage of non-professional football ways you could rattle your brain cage, but most of the time you don’t even need to hit your head. “A lot of concussions come from whiplash,” says Dr. Greenbacher. “You’re not safe in any sport. I’ve had a golfer come in from slipping on the green.” Of course, if that does happen to you, tell everyone it’s bloodsport-related trauma.

How To Treat It

Obvious first rule: Don’t get into these situations. No boxing. No full-contact Zog leagues. Second rule: protect ya neck. By strengthening your neck muscles and solidifying control over your head movements, you’re less likely to get a concussion.

How Screwed Are You?

The normal 2-4 weeks of recovery can turn into 1-2 months if you can’t take proper time off. Basically you just have to wait it out and try not to think too hard.

Back Strain

“The root cause is postural issues,” says Dr. Greenbacher. So … to the standing desk! “Often there’s a big component of the quads and hips being too tight. Most people are quad dominant and inflexible. All the sitting we do has caused us to be shortened and tightened.”

How To Treat It

Loosen your hips and contract your glutes. You can do that with better core exercises like squats — or even better this full roundup of exercises for your back.

How Screwed Are You?

“On the scale of not screwed to screwed, it’s low,” says Dr. Greenbacher. Even when your back is killing you and spasming like a dying ferret, you can massage (or medicate) it away. Also, everyone has postural issues. “Unless you need surgery, you can even improve a disc herniation by doing the same postural correction. I’ll have people come in with more than a muscle strain and 6 weeks of core work and they no longer have symptoms.”

Torn Meniscus

Think of your knee like 2 C-shaped pads made out of cartilage — thick on the outside, thin on the inside. Basically, your knees are 30ish-year-old brake pads you’ve never changed and never will. That’s why the last time you took a leap from the backyard playscape it hurt like hell.

How To Treat It

“Often, we’ll give it some time to declare itself, use a cortisone shot in the knee to settle things down and give it 4-6 weeks. If it isn’t hurting as much, there’s no need to have surgery for that.”

You will need surgery if “it’s catching or clicking and you can’t fully extend it. Then it’s not going to get better. But it’s a fairly basic surgery and you’re back up pretty quickly.”

How Screwed Are You?

“It’ll take you out of your activities. In one-and-a-half-to-2 months you can get back to normal. If you have a big tear and need it shaved down you’re going to move into arthritis.” There go your dreams of being on the Senior Tour.

Rotator Cuff Strain

Spring comes, you get baseball fever, and before you can get a good game of catch on, you’re clutching your shoulder and making a call to the bullpen.

It’s also called bursitis, and “as people use their shoulder more and more, the tendons rub on the boney ceiling of the shoulder,” says Dr. Greenbacher. “There’s not a lot of room in there, so it starts to pinch and get tender.”

How To Treat It

Let your shoulder rest so the inflammation comes down. Pop some ibuprofen. And don’t push through the pain just for a game of catch. “Cat’s In The Cradle” is only playing in your head.

Lastly, use lightweight stretchy bands to build up your those tiny rotator cuff muscles and as an exercise rule of thumb at the gym do 2 pulling exercises for everyone 1 pushing exercise.

How Screwed Are You?

“The long-term screwed factor is low. In the short term, you need to shut yourself down. If you do the right stuff and rest your rotator cuff, you should be out of the woods in 6-8 weeks max.”

Bruised Testicle

When your toddler is using you like a jungle gym, your boys are just another foothold to scale Mt. Daddy. But even worse than being stepped on is getting a tee-ball line drive to the scrotum.

How To Treat It

“You can get a pretty good whack to the nuts and have it hurt for up to a week without bad side effects. Ice it up. Wear tighter briefs so they’re not jiggling around,” says Dr. Greenbacher.

He also says not to reach for the ibuprofen, which can temporarily thin your blood. There’s a lot of blood rushing to that bruised area and “it can swell up pretty big and scary,” he says. “The main issue is that it’s possible to fracture your testicle. You can hit it hard enough so the lining tears. There will be a ton of bleeding — it’s pretty obvious.”

If you didn’t already faint or throw up reading that, know that you need to go to the emergency room for an ultrasound and a meet-and-greet from your urologist.

How Screwed Are You?

“Most of the time it’s not a big deal. Briefs, ice, and it’ll be fine within a week,” he says. Although there are circumstances when you have to lose lefty. In those thankfully rare cases, it shouldn’t screw you out of the ability to make more kids to hit you in the nuts. “If you lose a testicle, it’s not good for fertility, but one does a good job of coming through strong.”

Broken Toe

Wandering in the dark at 2 AM isn’t great for your toes. Did your wife move that coffee table just to mess with you? You’ll never know. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if that toe is bruised or broken, there’s not much you can do.

One exception is a broken big toe. “It has two caps on the bottom that don’t heal very well, and you could end up with chronic joint pain,” says Dr. Greenbacher.

How To Treat It

Buddy tape those toes together. Wear stiff-soled shoes and give it 3 – 4 weeks. Prevent that toe from flexing and extending. “You can also get a stiff orthotic that goes in the foot bed of the shoe. But most of the time you grunt it out,” he says.

How Screwed Are You?

“Short term it’s high. It hurts like hell,” says Dr. Greenbacher. Unfortunately if you go to the ER for a broken toe they’ll make a you wait a few hours and charge your insurance to do the same thing you’ll do at home.

Vasectomy Complications

“I can speak on this as a person who has had one, not as a sports doctor,” says Dr. Greenbacher. “The main issue for active dads with vasectomies is we don’t give ourselves enough time to heal.” There can be rare complications with chronic pain. Even rarer complications where you get your wife pregnant again.

How To Treat It

Don’t do any lifting, running, or bearing down for 3-4 weeks. “I didn’t do that, and it kept swelling,” says Dr. Greenbacher. And he’s a damn doctor! And you may not be advised to bear down, but you do have to empty the chamber, so feel free to get down.

“Your instructions are to pull 20 off to clean the pipes, However long that takes you — 4 days or 3 weeks. If there’s any sperm, even if they’re dead, they’ll have you check another time.” Best. Prescription. Ever.

How Screwed Are You?

If you want a bigger family? Very. But Dr. Greenbacher says modern vasectomies are pretty foolproof. “Nowadays, they tie them off, cut them, and burn them. It makes it hard to reattach, so you need to be secure you never want to have kids again.”

Plantar Fasciitis

Foot pain — a.k.a. barking dogs. Most common cause is walking around Disney World for 12 hours with a 3-year-old on your shoulders. “You know you have it because the first couple of steps in the morning feels like walking on glass. It goes from your heel to the ball of your foot.”

How To Treat It

Stay off of it, stupid. You can also try rolling on a lacrosse ball or a frozen water bottle under the arch of your foot. Do some heel drops on the stairs. Stand on the edge with the ball of your foot and put weight on the injured side. Too much pain? Start on the floor.

And forget about those “zero drop” shoes. Just avoid ones with higher heels. “The big mistake people make is putting a pad under the heel,” says Dr. Greenbacher. That causes the whole calf to shorten. It’s going in the wrong direction. You need to get the heel at the same level as your toes.”

How Screwed Are You?

“You want to get it to the point where it doesn’t hurt with ice,” he says. If you do some preventative heel drops or rolling massages with a hard rubber ball, you’ll be good to go.

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