Doctor explains cold weather protection after skiers suffer intimate injuries

Finnish skier Remi Lindholm was one of the athletes who reported an intimate frostbite at the competition in Ruka this week. Here is a picture of him at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships Planica on March 01, 2023 in Planica, Slovenia. (Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

A cross country ski race in Finnish Lapland generated global headlines after two athletes ended the competition with frozen penises.

After the Ruka World Cup ski event in Finnish Lapland last weekend, cross country skiers Remi Lindholm from Finland and Calle Halfvarsson from Sweden made international headlines in publications like CNN and Reuters when they reported frostbitten penises.

“It’s bad, it’s bad. It was, and still is, pretty numb. The toes are the worst,” Lindholm told tabloid Iltalehti after the 20 km free skiing race in which temperatures dipped to -18 degrees Celsius.

The Swede Halfvarsson said that there are few experiences that exceed the pain of freezing one’s penis.

“Damn, I had to lie there [in the athletes’ tent] for ten minutes to warm it up again, ” Halfvarsson told Swedish outlet Expressen.

“It’s lucky my second child is on the way because it’s going to be difficult in the future if I continue like this,” Halfvarsson joked.

For both of the athletes, this is not the first time they have experienced frostbitten members during competition.

Halfvarsson previously told Iltalehti that his penis froze in Ruka a few years ago and Lindholm made headlines at the Beijing Olympics in 2022 when he suffered an intimate frostbite injury during a 50 km ski race.

The skiers attributed their injuries to a lack of clothing, sacrificing protection from the cold in favour of lighter, faster garb.

Maaret Castrén, a director and professor of Emergency Medicine and Services at HUS Helsinki University Hospital, told Yle that it is important to wear enough layers when partaking in winter sports, even for top athletes.

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Frostbite injuries can occur in an instant

Castrén also emphasised that frostbite injuries can happen at a moment’s notice. Injuries in the genitals are more common than other parts of the body because the skin is thinner.

“As with other parts of the body, the genital areas suffer from circulation problems when it gets frostbite. In the worst cases, the frostbitten areas become black. The circulation may not be restored and the body part may not recover. The dead part would then have to be removed. I have never heard of this happening to the genitals, but it has happened to fingers and toes,” Castrén explained.

However, even if the body part remains a frostbite injury can develop into a lifelong problem.

Even if the most severe frostbite has been avoided, it can still become painful easily. – Maaret Castrén

Castrén offers some advice for those who do suffer a frozen phallus.

“You should go somewhere warm and let the frozen body part warm up slowly, in a good indoor conditions,” said Castrén. “The frozen area should not be massaged or put in warm water.”

She also rejects some old tips that are no longer recommended.

“Grease that prevents freezing are not recommended. Dry skin is a better protection than greased, moist skin.”

Related stories from around the North :

Canada : Canadian Arctic hunter survives 5-day blizzard, losing both hands to frostbite, CBC News

Finland : November was colder than average in Finnish Lapland, Yle News

United States : Family of Czech billionaire sues over Alaska crash death, The Associated Press

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