Sporadic reports of penile fracture give the impression of a rare trauma. The value of diagnostic investigations is doubtful and treatment options are controversial. A Medline search from January 1966 to July 2001 using the terms 'fracture of penis', 'penile trauma' and 'coital injuries' was used to identify full texts of publications on fracture of the penis. Full texts of relevant references from these publications were also identified. Data extracted for review included authors, country and year of publication, number of cases in each report, aetiology, clinical features, investigations, treatment and outcome. In 183 publications 1331 cases were reported between January 1935 and July 2001. Most reports were from the Mediterranean region. The commonest causes were coitus and penile manipulations, especially masturbation. Most patients were in their fourth decade. Clinical features included sudden penile pain, detumescence, voiding difficulties, and penile swelling and deviation. Diagnosis was made mainly on clinical grounds. Associated injuries included urethral rupture. Predisposing factors included excessive force at coitus or manipulation, fibrosclerosis of the tunica albuginea and chronic urethritis. Most authors advocated early surgical repair using absorbable sutures. Complications of the injury included coital difficulty, urethral fistula, penile plaque and erectile dysfunction. Penile fracture is not rare. Radiological investigations are expensive and may delay treatment. Current management favours early surgical exploration to prevent complications.