In a bluntly worded editorial
with the articles, Dr. Steven Schrader, a
reproductive health expert who studies cycling
at the National Institute for Occupational
Safety and Health, said he believed that it was
no longer a question of "whether or not bicycle
ridding on a saddle causes erectile dysfunction.
"Instead, he said in a interview, "The question
is, what are we going to do about it?"
The studies, by researchers at
Boston University and in Italy, found that the
more a person rides, the greater the risk of
impotence or loss of libido. And researchers in
Austria have found that many mountain bikers
experience saddle-related trauma that leads to
small calcified massess inside the scrotum.
This does not mean that people
should stop cycling, Dr. Schrader said. And
those who ride bikes rarely or for short periods
need not worry. But riders who spend many houses
on a bike each week should be concerned, he
"Most people are not riding long
enough to damage themselves permanently," Marc
Sani, publisher of Bicycle Retailer and Industry
News. Researchers have estimated that 5% of men
who ride bikes intensively have developed severe
to moderate erectile dysfunction. But some
experts believe that the numbers may be much
Since 2000, a dozen studies have
been carried out using sophisticated tools to
see exactly what happens when vulnerable human
anatomy meets the bicycle saddle.
The area in question is the
perineum, between the external genitals and the
anus. "When you sit on a chair you never put
weight on the perineum, "Dr. Schrader said. "But
when you sit on a bike, you increased pressure
on the perineum" sevenfold.
In men, a sheath in the perineum,
called Alcock's canal, contains an artery and a
nerve that supply the penis with blood and
sensation. The canal runs along the side of a
bone, Dr. Goldstein said, and when a cyclist
sits hard on a narrow saddle, the artery and the
nerve are compressed. Over time, a reduction of
blood flow can mean that there is not enough
pressure to achieve full erection.
In women, Dr. Goldstein said the
same arteries and nerves engorge the clitoris
during sexual intercourse. Women cyclists have
not been studied as much, he added, but they
probably suffer the same injuries.
NYT News Service.