As every year, the Tour de France attracts thousands of spectators lined up along the side of the road to cheer for their sports idols. The pedals are well trained, fit and powerful. Who comes to the sight of thoroughbred athletes already on the idea that they could develop erectile dysfunction? Hardly anyone. Numerous studies among professionals and amateurs show that health problems can occur after longer cycling races, especially sexual dysfunctions.
Cyclists suffer from erectile dysfunction more often than average
The figures are provided by a study carried out in Norway in 1997 with 260 amateur cyclists: after a distance of 540 kilometers, 22 percent of the competitors reported a numbness in the genitals. 13 percent of the male participants reported a severely impaired erectile ability after the race. For most of them, potency disorders resolved within the first week, but for some cyclists they persisted for more than one month, in rare cases even up to eight months.
If the nerves and blood vessels are squeezed, the cavernous bodies suffer
The extent of the health impairment caused by cycling depends crucially on the duration of a pedaling weekly spent on the saddle. Most of the participants in a 1998 study on erectile dysfunction and callousness in the genital area reported by the Boston group around Irwin Goldstein.
The examined amateurs, members of a local cycling club, spend six to eleven hours a week on the bike and cover distances of between 120 and 220 kilometers. Many cyclists know from experience that after prolonged tours in both the genitals and the perineal area, the area between the anus and genitals, as well as in the fingers can feel numbness. "In all three cases, the loss of sensation is due to nerve bruising during cycling, " explains urologist Dr. med. Gralf Popken from the University Medical Center Freiburg and board member of the Information Center for Sexuality and Health (ISG).
Long cycling, however, not only affects the nerves, but also affects the blood supply of the penis. Due to the unusual, mostly taken over hours sitting position while cycling relies on the blood vessels and nerves a considerable pressure, whereby the penile tissue is exposed to a supply emergency with oxygen and nutrients, which often is not without consequences.
Long-term damage is possible
Whether cycling can lead to long-term damage to the corpus cavernosum and thus to a chronic erectile dysfunction is not conclusively clarified. There is a lack of long-term studies in this area. In professional circles, the probability is not excluded. To what extent and how severe health problems caused by cycling, depends not only on the stage length, but also on the nature of the track. On a flat road the cyclist exposes himself to less impact than in rough terrain. The saddle shape also plays an important role: "the worse the saddle is adapted to the individual anatomy of the driver, the greater the pressure on the blood vessels and nerves, " emphasizes Popken. Popken therefore recommends making a change of position more often on longer tours. In any case, the urologist does not want to be misunderstood: "In principle, sport supports health and, in addition to the cardiovascular system, also strengthens the functioning of the blood vessels." Only too much sport and the use of not optimally matched equipment and accessories could be the opposite.