Men who take up cycling to stay fit or avoid the high cost of gas could be harming their health if they don't choose the right bicycle, warns urologist Vinod Nargund from St Bartholomew's Hospital in London. Writing in the urology journal BJU International, Nargund says that the problems to look out for include genital numbness, erection problems and soreness and skin irritations in the groin area.
Nargund added that men who cycle a lot can also experience changes to their sperm function, because of the excessive heat generated in the pelvic area. While a general link between cycling and male infertility has not been established, it is still recognized as a possible side effect and has been recorded in a number of male cyclists.
Mountain bikers run a particular risk, says Nargund, as studies (see below) have shown that they exhibit higher levels of scrotal abnormalities than on-road cyclists. "The bicycle saddle is in direct contact with the perineum and its underlying structures," he explained. "It makes contact just behind the scrotum where the nerves and blood vessels enter the back of the scrotum and penis. This area is sensitive, with hair follicles and sweat and sebaceous glands, which are all good breeding grounds for infection. Abrasions, chafing, damaged hair follicles and bruising are among the most traumatic cycling injuries."
He also points out that more than 60 percent of male cyclists who have taken part in research studies have reported genital numbness. "Numbness is common because the pressure of the saddle can impair the blood supply to this area and put pressure on the nerves in the penis," says Nargund. "This can also affect the man's ability to get an erection. There's a greater incidence of numbness and erectile problems in men who cycle regularly and over longer training distances. That is why it is important to rest intermittently during prolonged and vigorous cycling."
The most important factor in avoiding problems is to choose the right bike, according to Nargund. "The male cyclist should know his bicycle well and a proper fit is particularly important for high-performance cycling," he says. "The level of pedal resistance is also very important, because riding a bike using too much resistance is a major cause of health problems in the groin area. Padding in the saddle and shorts are also important if cyclists want to avoid saddle-related problems."
Cycling And The Limp Dick
Erectile Problems And Cycling Under The Spotlight
Source: BJU International