Turns out the shocking injury on this week’s episode of Big Little Lies is factually correct.
Spoiler alert: A penis was harmed in Sunday’s episode of HBO’s addictive miniseries Big Little Lies. Celeste (brilliantly played by Nicole Kidman) fought off her abusive husband Perry (Alexander Skarsgård) by hitting him where it hurts—with a tennis racket. Diagnosis: a broken urethra. So can you actually break the urethra? And if so would you be in and out of the ER in a matter of hours? To find out whether the show is as medically accurate as it is good soapy fun, we called Lee Zhao, MD, an assistant professor of urology and director of male reconstructive surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center.
First things first: The show got the injury right. “This clinical condition is a penile fracture and it occurs when there is trauma to the erect penis,” says Dr. Zhao. “A fracture to the penis can also cause damage to the urethra, which runs through the penis.” It is technically a torn urethra, not a broken one.
While this accident-from-hell typically happens when there is bending of the erect penis during sex or masturbation, some whacks from a tennis racket or other blows could cause it too, Dr. Zhao confirms.
But that fancy Monterey ER may have screwed up by sending Perry home after several hours. “Penile fracture usually requires emergency surgery,” says Dr. Zhao, who is an expert in trauma. “Most patients will recover completely though there’s a chance of erectile dysfunction.”
Without prompt surgery, a penile fracture can lead to a curvature of the penis called Peyronie’s Disease, adds Dr. Zhao. This condition is a common cause of painful sex in men. “It’s usually due to plaque, which is like scar tissue, inside,” he says.
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We can only guess as to whether Perry’s humiliating—and, may we just say, completely deserved—injury will factor into the season finale of Big Little Lies this coming Sunday. But the way the show is going, that hospital better staff up for the night of the ball.