Turn Your Head & Cough = Hernia Test, WTF?

When I was in grade school (late ‘70s) part of our annual school physical was the ol’ hand under the scrotum, turn your head and cough routine. Why did we do this?

Is the head turning important, or is that just so scores of boys aren’t coughing in the doctor’s face? And why were schools testing nine-year-old boys for hernias anyway? Was this considered a serious health threat? Did girls not get hernias? Considering for a minute that I may have had a hernia, what indicator would the doctor have felt under my balls? Is this still done regularly?

I feel so used…

You cough because that can cause a hernia to momentarily expand, which the doctor can feel.

You turn your head so you don’t cough on the doctor.

But why where they testing 3rd graders for hernias?

I was hoping one of our more medically knowledgeable dopers would answer that part, but since they haven’t, I’ll tell you what was told to me.

When I had a hernia repaired (nearly 30 years ago) my doctor told me that it might have been there since I was a child. He said it wasn’t unusual for male babies to get hernias (or at least weak spots, I don’t know what you would call that) from ordinary activities such as crying or coughing, or even trying to sit up.

According to him, the muscle tissue could be fairly easily torn before it developed fully.

And girls (baby or otherwise) have a slightly better (or at least different) musculature in that area, and are much less prone to hernias of that type.

So I guess they were testing because it’s not terribly uncommon for young boys to have hernias.

(And please, you more medical dopers go easy on me if I’ve botched any of this, I’m just relating what my doctor told me.)

I have similar feelings about the scoliosis “tests” we went through every year in elementary and middle school. Take off your shirt and bend over. That’s what every kid wants to do in a room of several strangers and a handful of classmates and teachers. Anybody else get the icks remembering that?

Ah, but if you HAVE scoliosis and you bend over one side of your back will appear to be humped. Something that may not be obvious while you’re staning, sitting or lying.

Boys are morelikely to have hernias because the testes have to move down from the abdomen throught the inguinal canal to the scrotum, and so there is a possibility of bowel following the path (so to speak, I’m simplifying) of the testis, giving you a hernia. Girls have a different anatomy of the inguinal canal, so hernias are less likely, but still possible.

Because they get them sometimes? I had a friend who had a hernia in elementary school.

Because they’re not just an adult problem.

I was born with one, and have some nice scars where my legs meet my crotch to show for it.

I think it’s more common in males due to the trip the 'nads must make from the ‘female/fetus’ position to the final resting place in the sack. It is interesting that you mention crying may cause hernias, as males are told ‘real men don’t cry’, perhaps there is a biological reason for this.

It’s not just crying, it’s any increase in intra-abdominal pressure, which may force a piece of intestine through the defect and cause a hernia.

So that would include: coughing, sneezing, straining at stool and carrying heavy things (ever heard “don’t lift that, you’ll herniate yourself!”).

The latter is most definitely seen as a positive male trait, so nice as kanicbird’s theory is, I don’t think it holds true.

You had to do that in front of all those people? Seriously? We just had to be in a separate room with just the nurse. No other strangers or classmates.

I’m I the only one who finds this completely alien?

None of this ever happened when I went to school. The closest thing was when we had a head lice inspection in the 3rd grade and a vision and hearing test in the 4th.

In highschool you had to have a physical if you wanted to play sports, but one wasn’t provided and it certainly wasn’t required if you didn’t.

oh shit, seriously? my backbone humps way out when i bend over. :frowning:

At least in my school, I think about 65% of the kids were “positive” for at least slight scoliosis. I attribute this more to amateurs doing the diagnosis than any genetic deficiencies in my neighborhood. It got to be a status thing, if you didn’t have any scoliosis, you weren’t as cool :cool:.

OK, then, why did I have to undergo regular prostate exams since I turned six? And why were they conducted by my Scary Uncle Dwight? Shouldn’t a doctor be doing that sort of thing?

Strange that I had never thought about it, but all of our health inspections (scoliosis, lice) in grade school (except the hernia) were done with everyone, male and female, in a big public line. It was always a big “oooh” moment when someone was inspected and selected over to the group W bench. It was quite horrible, really, that the staff made no attempt at privacy. Kids pulled out of line for lice invariably carried the stigma for several grade-years afterward (ah, the cruelty of kids).

I’ll second the ick factor.

At least one boy (that I knew of) in my class was discovered to have a hernia through those school exams, and one girl was diagnosed with scoliosis as well. Her’s was not minor either. She wound up wearing a metal brace contraption after that, all through middle and highschool.

Can I just say that if asked to turn your head and cough, please turn your head away from the doctor. It’s strange how many guys don’t understand this, and I only treat adults.