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In Street Clothes

Covering sports injuries from the perspective of a certified athletic trainer and backed by analytics.

Trying to Make Sense of Manu Ginobili’s Testicular Injury

Manu Ginobili has endured plenty of injuries throughout his professional career including broken bones, sprained ankles, and countless muscle strains. Ginobili haphazardly throws his body around so often that former teammate Brent Barry dubbed him “El Contusione.” However the injury he sustained Wednesday against the Pelicans is easily the most cringe worthy on his laundry list of ailments.

Ginobili suffered a significant testicular injury following an apparent knee to the groin from Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson. Ginobili was escorted to the locker room and his teammates’ somber mood in postgame interviews hinted the injury was severe. Late Thursday afternoon their fears were confirmed when it was revealed Ginobili would need surgery to repair the testicular damage he sustained.

Given the sensitive nature of the injury, it’s not surprising to see the Spurs limit the particular information surrounding Ginobili’s injury. However following this type of incident several possibilities exist. In most cases a simple scrotal contusion occurs that includes pain in the area and occasionally nausea, though this appears more serious. In more severe cases, a traumatic hydrocele can develop if excessive fluid builds up in the scrotum. If the swelling is caused by damage to the main veins in the testicles it is known as a varicocele. Even worse, a hematocele can occur if the bundle of veins ruptures and blood quickly accumulates in the area.

Another common testicular injury is possible if the impact affected the spermatic cord. Testicular torsion can occur if the testicle rotates, twisting the spermatic cord. As the cord twists, the blood supply to the area becomes restricted and the area swells. If the ischemia is prolonged the affected individual runs the risk of losing the testicle.

Finally testicular rupture is also a possibility. Like the other aforementioned injuries, a rupture presents with scrotal swelling but also includes the contents of the testicles protruding out due to breaks in the surrounding connective tissue.

Surgery is a treatment option in most traumatic testicular injuries and recovery often takes multiple weeks.

Ginobili isn’t the first testicular injury in the NBA, though the number of reported cases is surprisingly low. Former Sonics forward Detlef Schrempf missed three games during the 1996-97 season following “testicular trauma.” Mavericks’ big man Shawn Bradley also missed three games with testicular trauma during the 1997-98 season but his injury accompanied a groin strain. John Stark missed two playoffs games during the 2001 postseason following an episode of testicular torsion though its development wasn’t basketball-related. Unfortunately none of these injuries seem to be on the same level as Ginobili’s.

Regardless of specifics, it is clear the Spurs will proceed without Ginobili for the immediate future. The team expects him to miss four weeks recovering though it would be understandable if he needed longer to completely heal. The All-Star break will help minimize the games he misses but the injury is a painful setback for a team who only lost 11 games to injury through the first half of the season.