Biking May Cause Erection Problems


Men! Some doctors think a wholesome, health-boosting, fitness-building bicycle should carry a Surgeon General’s warning: “Ride at your own risk.”

The hard seat where you rest your tender tissues has been related to erection problems, and urologists have case files to prove it.

The cause is simple: Compression on the perineum – the area between the anus and the genitals – damages blood vessels, thus affecting blood flow.

Take precautions, but recognize there are no easy answers and no surefire solution.

“I do warn people, but I don’t say you need to give up this healthy activity,” says Dr. Richard Lieberman, an Allentown, Penn., urologist who frequently treats bicycle-caused erectile dysfunction. “Anyone who’s strapped into an automobile knows a lot of things have risks.”

Still, the impact of cycling on sexual health is a serious issue, says Dr. Irwin Goldstein, a Boston University urologist who’s done two studies on the subject and is a champion of radical redesign of bicycles.

Goldstein, who’s performed penile implant surgeries on cyclists as young as 18, has documented that as many as 5 percent of male cyclists experience erectile dysfunction of some kind.

“I’m not anti-bicycle. I’m pro-common sense,” he says. “If any other product on the market caused this much harm, it would have been banned long ago.”

Cycling also been implicated in conditions such as clitoral neuropathy (numbness), says Goldstein.

He is unimpressed by new designs of bicycles and bicycle seats. Goldstein’s ideal two-wheeler has a seat like a toilet seat and no metal bar in front.

But professionals disagree on this point. Lieberman says current designs are probably an improvement if people find them more comfortable.

Both doctors say these new products should undergo rigorous scientific testing — including measuring the blood flow of avid cyclists.

Terry Precision Cycling, which has five seats for men and six seats for women, has sold about 130,000 of its Liberator models since 1992. The most common design sports a 2-inch hole in the middle of the seat, intended to eliminate pressure on the perineum.

“Our intent was not to make a saddle that purports to cure impotence,” said Paula Dyba, vice president of marketing. “We don’t want to make medical claims. But we know we are making cyclists more comfortable. When we get letters from people saying they don’t experience numbness anymore, we know it must be positive.”

According to Lieberman, the following cannot guarantee you won’t run into problems, but they are measures worth taking:

  • Get on and off your bicycle carefully and gently to ensure minimal impact to the perineum.
  • Try to minimize sudden impacts to the perineum.
  • Take particular care on mountain bikes, even though the dramatic jumps and bumps may be a large part of the fun.
  • Consider buying a special bicycle seat if it relieves numbness or other obvious problems.
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