Cycling – an attack on potency?

As every year, the Tour de France attracts thousands of spectators lined up along the roadside to cheer on their sporting idols. The pedals are well-trained, fit and powerful. When looking at the thoroughbred athletes, who would think that  erectile dysfunction  could occur in them? Hardly anyone. Nevertheless, researchers have long assumed that long-term cycling can lead to health problems, especially sexual dysfunction. What is behind this assumption?

Older studies suggested a connection

A study of 260 amateur cyclists carried out in Norway in 1997 provided the corresponding figures: After a distance of 540 kilometers, 22 percent of the competitors reported numbness  in  their genitals. 13 percent of the male participants stated that they had severely restricted erectile function after the race. For most, the erectile dysfunction subsided within the first week, but for some cyclists it lasted longer than a month, in rare cases even up to eight months.

Most of the participants in a study conducted in 1998 by the Boston research group led by Irwin Goldstein also reported erectile dysfunction and numbness in the genital area. The amateurs studied, members of a local cycling club, spent six to eleven hours a week on their bikes and covered distances of between 120 and 220 kilometers.

Probable causes of impotence from cycling

Damage to the nerves and arteries in the penis caused by the pressure exerted by the saddle on this area of ​​the body has been suggested as a possible cause of impotence from prolonged cycling. The unusual sitting position when cycling, which is usually taken for hours, puts considerable pressure on the blood vessels and nerves, which led to the suspicion of a lack of supply to the penile tissue and, as a result, erectile dysfunction.

Recent studies give the all-clear

Recent studies with larger numbers of participants do not confirm the previous scientific assumptions. Neither a comprehensive study by University College London with over 5,000 subjects, conducted from 2012 to 2013, nor a study by the University of California from 2018 with around 4,000 subjects found any connections between cycling and impotence or erectile dysfunction .

Both studies examined men who cycled occasionally as well as those who practiced the sport intensively.

Tips for gentle cycling

Even if there is no causal connection between cycling and erectile dysfunction according to the current state of science, a few tips can help to ensure the best possible blood flow in the penis when cycling:

  • Saddle:  The right saddle should be well padded and sufficiently wide (note the position of the seat bones).
  • Position of the saddle:  This should be straight and not pointing upwards.
  • Rest breaks:  Rest periods are particularly important on long bike tours.
  • Sitting position:  The legs should not be fully straightened, even when the pedals are in the lowest position.
  • Switch positions : Every now and then, straighten up and ride a little while standing to take the pressure off your penis.

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