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Wednesday, 12 August, 1998, 09:32 GMT 10:32 UK
Cycle of despair
Woman on bike
Women cyclists also had "significantly more" urological complaints
Men with impotence problems will be asked if they are regular cyclists after American research showed a link between bicycle seats and impotence.

British experts at the Institute of Urology in London say they will question patients about their cycling habits after a study by the American Urological Association revealed how regular cycling damages health.

The study of 505 male cyclists and 124 runners found that regular cycling had an impact on impotence, difficulty achieving orgasm, prostate pain, difficulty urinating and pain as well as pain and numbness in the saddle area.

Women cyclists also had "significantly more" urological complaints than those who did not cycle. These included chronic pain in the saddle area, difficulty urinating and difficulty achieving orgasm.

The researchers say that mountain biking in particular is second only to pelvic fracture as a risk factor for impotence. Other factors include cigarette smoking and difficulty achieving orgasm.

They conclude: "Increased bicycle riding exposure has a direct relationship with increased sexual and urinary tract dysfunction."

Cycle ban

The research follows on from a controversial article in 'Bicycling' magazine last year. Urology expert Dr Irwin Goldstein of the Boston University Medical Center advised that men should never ride bicycles.

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He said cycling was the cause of impotence in six out of every 100 of his patients. This was due to the weight of the body pressing down on the artery which supplies the penis with blood.

Dr Goldstein estimated that 100,000 men have been made impotent by cycling.

But many experts disagree, although they believe there is some link between impotence and regular cycling. They say the cardiovascular benefits of cycling far outweigh the dangers of impotence.

But they advise regular cyclists to make sure their saddle is properly fitted and they sit back in the seat.

Saddle design

Problems occur when cyclists' body weight rests directly on an area called the perineum where all the important arteries and nerves involved with erection lie. This blocks the blood supply.

Impotence occurs when these arteries become squashed or bent permanently.

The dangers can be averted to some extent by making sure your bike seat is level or pointed downwards, using a wider seat which supports the pelvis, padding the seat and standing up in the seat at regular intervals.

Saddle manufacturers have tried to get around the problem by designing special seats with a hole in the middle to allow air flow and support the pelvis.

The Italian-made Aero Saddle has won a patent from the US Patent Office is aimed at regular cyclist "to enhance cyclist comfort and health". It contains a diamond shaped cavity in the centre of the saddle "to prevent compression of the urologic and genital structures".

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12 Aug 98 | Health
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