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Long-Distance Cyclists
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, Washington.

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, August 2004.

Reference Source 89
August 27, 2004



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