Female Cyclist at Risk of Sexual Health Problem?

Various research and studies have shown that riding a bicycle habitually can cause erectile dysfunction in men. A new study suggests that women too can be at risk.


A lot of women who are into cycling or spinning classes must have experienced numbness from sitting on a bicycle. The seats are designed in such ways that your body weight will rest on its nose. This compresses your nerves and blood vessels at the genital area. Due to this, men are at greater risk of impotency. However, female cyclists have now been studied closely for this.


A study by Yale researches in 2006 consisted of 48 women, each a consistent rider who cycled more than 10 miles per week. They found that the cyclists had less genital sensation when compared to a control group of runners. This study enabled some scientists to believe that just like men riders; women cyclists too might be at a greater risk of sexual problems. The research tried to find out if there are any specific factors that caused soreness and numbness among the women.


For the research, the cyclist got their personal bikes into the lab. The bikes were mounted on a stationary machine, the handle bars were positioned as per the cyclist’s convenience and they all were asked to paddle. A device was used to measure sensation in the pelvic area. The females reported whether they felt tingling sensation or numbness while seated on the bicycle.


The position of the handlebars contributed a visible notification in the research. While the seats were positioned lower, women reported extra pressure at the perineum, a soft tissue. They also experienced lesser sensation in the pelvic floor. The researchers noticed that the lower the handlebars in relation to the saddle, the more a woman had to lean forward. Due to this a greater percentage of body weight was thrown on the perineum. This occurs when the rider is leaning forward, with her back flat and hands on the drop bars of a track or a road bicycle for a more aerodynamic position.


Dr. Marsha K. Guess, an author of the study and an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the Yale School of Medicine said, “We’re basically showing that there may be modifiable risk factors associated with female riders,”. She further added, “This better positions us to educate riders on safe riding practices that may actually be beneficial to reduction of pressure and lost sensation in the pelvic floor.”


Steven M. Schrader, a scientist at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health whose early research helped identify bike seat risks for male police officers on bicycle patrol, believes these findings help to analyze the problems faced by female riders. He stated that a long-term study is required on this subject. While delivering speeches over the years about his findings, Dr. Schrader said that women from the audience would approach him sometimes and say, “It’s not just a men’s thing.”


“Women are having issues as well,” Dr. Schrader said. His research on male cyclists suggests that in order to reduce the pressure on the perineum, a no nose seat on a bicycle should be preferred. He recommended the male bicyclists ride a no-nose saddle as this would put pressure on the sit bones instead of the perineum.


He had a similar opinion for women riders as well. Although Dr. Schrader has not done a research on female riders, he believes that his earlier findings will benefit the women too. A nose-less saddle will take away the pressure from thrusting the soft tissue as the weight will be thrown on the sit bone. He said, “If you don’t put weight there, there’s no pressure.”

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