A survey of nurses in Indiana schools has revealed a disturbing and painful new form of bullying that makes name-calling and wedgies look fun. It’s called ball tapping and involves deliberately hitting boys where it hurts the most – in the genitals.
Ball tapping isn’t really tapping at all — it’s done with force and as any male will tell you, it is quite painful. And according to a survey conducted by WTHR in Indianapolis, boys deliberately assaulting other boys this way is more common than you would think. Of the 163 school nurses polled in Indiana elementary, middle and high schools, 33% said they were of aware of it happening. When broken down by grade level, the survey shows that ball tapping happens most in middle school, where 62% of the nurses say they’ve seen it.
Ball tapping is not just happening in Indiana. You Tube has dozens of videos featuring boys kicking other boys in the testicles while onlookers laugh. Other videos show boys making a game of ball tapping where the winner is whoever manages to kick the other player first.
With such an innocuous name, kids may think that ball tapping is just harmless fun. But in addition to the excruciating pain it can cause, such assaults on that part of a boy’s body can cause serious medical problems. After enduring years of hits and kicks to his genitals – including once with a socket wrench – high school student Jake Arend ended up in the hospital where doctors discovered scar tissue had completely sealed off his urinary tract.
Dr. Martin Kaefer, a pediatric urologist at Riley Hospital in Indianapolis, tells WTHR that the dangers of ball tapping are very real. Even minor hits can rupture the testicles and lead to serious long-term medical problems that require painful and complicated surgery. Even with treatment, the impact can cause permanent damage including the inability to pass urine and even fertility problems.
Mary Conway, president of the Indiana Association of School Nurses, says she was surprised by the results of the survey and hopes it will serve as “a real wake up call” to schools who often don’t take the issue seriously.
As with other types of bullying, kids don’t always tell their parents what’s going on. Dr. Kaefer says it is up to parents to start that conversation. Talk to them early and often about all types of bullying. Ask them questions, listen to their answers and let them know that this kind of hitting is never appropriate.