Since there are a lot of avid cyclists in the Athlo community, I thought this would be a great topic to write about. I recently came across a good article by Elizabeth Quinn that this post provides a summary of. The main cause of erectile dysfunction from bicycling is the amount of time and pressure placed on the tissues of the perineum which can eventually damage the blood vessels and nerves that allow men to have an erection. The perineum is the area of the groin between the male reproductive organ and the anus. Continually damaging this area with constant pressure can permanently affect erectile function in men.
Factors that are associated with an increase of risk for erectile dysfunction in cyclists include the weight of the cyclist, saddle design, length of rides or a cyclist’s intensity, and skill of the cyclist. Obviously heavier riders will have an increased pressure on the perineum and certain saddle designs increase these risk factors.
Many cyclists have felt some type of symptom in that area consisting of numbness, tingling, pain, etc. There is some good news though. Most of these symptoms will be felt long before any serious problems do develop and well before erectile dysfunction would be diagnosed.
So, what can you do to prevent erectile dysfunction and continue riding pain free? One of the most important things to do when you ride is to keep the weight of your body on the pedals through your feet instead of on the saddle to reduce the pressure on the perineum. Cyclists need to take breaks on long rides if pain or discomfort is felt in the area. Changes positions frequently during rides will decrease some of this pressure as well. Adjust the saddle height so the knees are slightly bent at the bottom of the pedal stroke and avoid saddles with lots of padding because this will only cause you to sinker lower on the seat, putting more pressure on the perineum. You can also raise the handle bars causing the rider to sit a bit more upright. I also highly recommend wearing cycling shorts that have the proper padding in them.
The last thing to consider is the type of saddle. Most studies show that wider saddles are better than narrow ones because it actually allows more blood flow throughout the groin area and more weight will be distributed to the ischial tuberosity (bottom of the butt). Newer saddles, like theSelle SMP, offer a larger cutout and downward facing nose. It is more advanced than the traditional saddles and allows more blood flow through the perineum. So, for those of you experiencing any types of symptoms, address the issue with some of these solutions and hopefully you will enjoy a new pain free ride.