The Times of India, Mumbai

Wednesday, October 5, 2005


Page - 35

Cycle seat link to love life

By Sandra Blakeslee

A Healthier Bike Seat

Recent studies conform that an increased prevalence of erectile dysfunction among cyclists is due to use of the standard narrow saddle. Alternative designs eliminate this problem.


The standard saddle, with a narrow rear seat and long nose fits inside the pelvic bones used for sitting. The rider's weight is focused on the perineum, compressing nerves and blood vessels. The reduction of blood flow can become permanent.


The noseless seat eliminates the nose and provides a wider seating area. The cyclist's weight is placed on the bottom of the pelvis, the "sit bone," eliminating the pressure on nerves and blood vessels.


Source : Irwin Goldstein, M.D.


A raft of new studies suggest that cyclists, particularly men, should be careful which bicycle seats they choose. The studies add to earlier evidence that traditional bicycle saddles, the kind with narrow rear and pointy nose, play a role in sexual impotence.


Some saddle designs are more damaging than others scientists say. But even so-called ergonomic seats, to protect the sex organs, can be harmful, the research finds. The dozen or so studies, from peer-reviewed journals, are summarized in three articles in Journal of Sexual Medicine.

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 said.


"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 higher.


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.



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