Sack tapping is a form of sexual harassment in which a boy or a group of boys will tap, punch, or hit another boy’s scrotum, or the “sack.” Typically this is done with the back of the hand, hitting the scrotum with a quick flick of the wrist. While sack tapping is usually thought of as a game by the boys who practice it, it is actually a form of bullying that can have serious consequences. Hitting the testes can cause severe immediate pain and can, in serious cases, lead to rupture of the testicles.
The scrotum is a sack of skin and muscle that surrounds and protects the testicles, where sperm is produced. It keeps the testicles at a slightly decreased temperature from the rest of the body to encourage the survival of the sperm. The scrotum has high pain sensitivity so that a man will avoid and be immediately aware of any injury to the groin. The many nerve endings in the scrotum lead upwards into the abdomen, which is why men experience pain in their bellies as well their scrotums when they are hit in the groin.
Sack tapping may be a consensual game played, stereotypically, by boys on an athletic team or a group of friends, but it can also be a form of bullying. Oftentimes it has consequences no more serious than immediate pain that subsides fairly quickly. In some cases however, the injury may cause complications that require surgery and have lasting physical and emotional effects on the victim. In the worst cases, when there is a truly excessive amount of force, the testicle may be ruptured, necessitating amputation of the impacted testicle.
In 2010, a Minnesota teenager named David Gibbons was the victim of an aggressive assault of sack tapping at school. Hours later, it became apparent that Gibbons’ testicle had ruptured and that it would need to be amputated. The incident brought national press to what was looked upon as a harmful new fad in schools.
The newness and dangerousness of sack tapping as a trend has been contested by several journalists. Some have claimed that the game has existed for decades and that calling it a new trend is a creation of the media. Though there are instances, especially in the cases of attack versus a consensual activity, where sack tapping clearly has dire consequences, some contend that sack tapping as a game does not have much medical importance. Still, parents are urged to talk with their children about sack tapping, telling kids that it is an inappropriate and potentially harmful activity that constitutes harassment, not play.