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Zipper slips suffered in silence

They may be the tip, so to speak, of a very substantial iceberg. The 13 men and boys who have fronted up to Queensland hospitals in the past four years with trouser-zipper injuries to the penis are probably outnumbered many times by those who bear their affliction privately.

Richard Hockey, data analyst at the Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit, reveals that “people probably try to treat themselves first”. “The embarrassment factor might put you off”, he said.

Mr Hockey said he was surprised to discover that trapped genitals were far and away the leading cause of clothing related injury when he analysed emergency department statistics from 1998 to 2001. It could be a subtropical issue, Mr Hockey said. “Maybe it is seasonal. In the hotter weather, anecdotally, people are going without underpants. Perhaps it is now time to return to button flies”.

In total, clothes were implicated in 81 injuries, including finger dislocations from putting on or removing socks, and fractures sustained in falls during that tricky stage when one leg is in the pants and the other is trying to locate the other hole.

Dressing was a highly personal ritual, Mr Hockey said, and one, perhaps, that people did not adapt sufficiently to with their age, mobility, and health. “People keep on doing it the same way, but maybe when they are a bit older can’t reach their feet as well” (from the Sydney Morning Herald. Contributed by Richard Hockey).

Mike Hayes, Injury Prevention deputy editor adds: A similar cause of injury to children showed up several years ago when we undertook work on clothing safety for the UK’s Department of Trade and Industry. I would not describe the UK as tropical!