A recent study has advised men to stand more often in the saddle when they are cycling, to avoid damaging their testicles. Men’s Health reports that a study by scientists at Worclaw Medical University in Poland found that in certain cases, male cyclists were prone to numbness in the genital area, and erectile dysfunction (ED).
The study was published in Sports Medicine, and found that as well as poor technique, the design of the saddle may be to blame. The usual ‘nose’ shaped seat can put extra pressure on the private parts, causing soreness, numbness, and even nerve damage.
The scientists recommended that men who experience these symptoms stand as often as possible on the pedals, raising their lower quarters off the saddle. However, the study was small, based on just 22 cases of saddle soreness, and scientists are wary of drawing definitive conclusions.
They are also mindful of the fact that cycling is a good form of exercise, that is especially popular with men. Exercise is known to delay or improve many of the conditions known to cause ED, such as high blood pressure, excessive weight gain, and diabetes. The activity may also help to control anxiety, stress, and depression, which can also cause ED.
Dr Ippokratis Sarris, a consultant in reproductive medicine, explained to the Daily Mail: “There is a suggestion that nerve damage from the pressure of cycling can cause loss of sensation and problems with erections. Cycling is linked to infertility, but much more research is needed.”
Kamil Litwinowicz, the review’s lead author at Wroclaw Medical University, explains that: “many men struggle with discomfort when riding a bike and there are concerns this can lead to sexual problems.”
He added: “However there is also strong evidence that being sedentary is linked to erectile dysfunction, so cycling as a form of activity could reduce that risk. We don’t want men to quit cycling, but instead to look at things like standing on the pedals or using a different saddle.”
Harvard Health reports on another study that was completed in 2014. This was much wider in scope, with 5,300 men being sent a questionnaire about how many hours a week they cycled, and if they had any issues with ED or infertility within five years. The researchers concluded that there was no clear correlation.
However, for keen cyclists who are keen to protect their crown jewels, the problem can be alleviated by choosing the right design of bike. Seats which have short noses and wide, well-padded saddles are best to avoid blocking blood flow to the penis. Gel saddles which are more pliable can also reduce numbness and friction.
The position of the handlebars can also make a difference, with the height lower than the saddle height being the best to avoid pressure on the private parts. Wearing protective underwear may also help. Men who experience tingling, pain or numbness in their genitals after cycling are advised to take a break and consult a doctor or pharmacist.
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