Face Impotence Risk
Saddle pressure can cause temporary
erection difficulties for men who take part in long distance cycling
events, but bike adjustments may decrease the risk, a study suggests.
However, bicycle seats with "cutouts"
designed to relieve the pressure that may contribute to impotence
could actually put certain men at greater risk for the problem.
Researchers found that among 463
men who'd taken part in long-distance cycling events, just over
four percent developed short-lived erectile dysfunction (ED) within
the following week. And while many of those who reported using
a cutout saddle were at lower risk of temporary ED, others --
namely, those who felt numbness in the groin during the ride --
were more likely to develop ED if they used a cutout seat.
The researchers also found a greater
impotence risk among men who used a mountain bike for the road
race, and those with handlebars higher than the saddle.
The findings are published in The
Journal of Urology.
Although the study found only associations
between certain bike characteristics and temporary ED -- and not
definitive cause-effect relationships -- it "seems reasonable"
for men to make some simple biking adjustments if they're concerned,
lead study author Dr. Joseph R. Dettori stated.
That means sticking with a road
bike on normal terrain, keeping handlebar height lower than the
saddle and, for men who feel numbness while riding, using a saddle
with no cutout.
Although men in the study were
in long-distance recreational events, lasting for a week in many
cases, less avid bicyclists could follow those guidelines as well,
according to Dettori, who is with Olympic Research in Steilacoom,
He said the real concern is that
repeated episodes of "microtrauma" to the nerves and blood vessels
will eventually promote chronic ED.
The reasons for the associations
found in the study are not fully clear. Dettori said he and his
colleagues speculate that cutout saddles do not fit the anatomy
of all men, and may actually put "select individuals" at greater
risk of temporary impotence.
As for the other findings, a lower
handlebar height brings the torso forward, and may help relieve
pressure on the groin area. Similarly, mountain bikes may cause
men to have a more upright posture, which could explain the association
with ED, according to Dettori.
However, he noted, it's also possible
that men who used mountain bikes for a road event were less experienced
riders, and may not have been as skilled in "unloading" their
weight from the saddle when pedaling.
Since biking is good exercise,
men should not take the findings as a warning to give up the activity,
according to Dettori. Instead, he said, the results suggest some
modifications that could help men "keep on cycling."
SOURCE: The Journal of Urology,
Reference Source 89
August 27, 2004