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June 30, 2004
NIOSH Update:

Bicycle Saddles Without Protruding Noses Reduce Pressure Associated With Erectile Dysfunction Measure, Study Finds

NOTE: This page is archived for historical purposes and is no longer being maintained or updated.

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 401-3749


In a new study, scientists from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that riding a bicycle having a saddle without a protruding nose significantly reduced physical pressure to the groin that has been associated with a measure of erectile dysfunction.

The study provides new information and recommendations pertaining to the question of whether men face a risk of sexual dysfunction or impotence from occupational bicycle riding. Some studies have raised that question, based on cases of impotence and genital numbness that have been reported among some cyclists. The new study itself does not conclusively answer the question. The report was published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.

The study follows previous research which found that riding bicycles having saddles with protruding noses exerts pressure on the perineum, the groin area behind the scrotum. In a 2002 NIOSH report, perineal pressure was associated with genital numbness in a group of bicycle-patrol police officers, and with a decrease in the amount of time that the officers had erections during sleep.

The new study, conducted with cooperation from the International Police Mountain Bike Association, measured perineal pressure experienced by 33 volunteer participants who rode a stationary bicycle under controlled pedaling conditions. The researchers compared three types of saddles without a protruding nose, with a traditional sport-style saddle having a protruding nose.

Based on the previous research which found a relationship between "pressure on the saddle nose and the quality of nocturnal erectile tumescence," the reduction of perineal pressure from a noseless saddle "is believed to reduce the risk of erectile problems associated with occupational cycling," the researchers stated in the new study. They noted that because the study was conducted with stationary bicycles, further research in actual road cycling would be needed to:

  • Determine whether saddle designs without a protruding nose affect bicycle maneuverability, handling, stability, and weight distribution, and whether these saddles can be safely and effectively integrated into police and security patrol cycling.
  • Examine a larger group of participants over a longer study time.
  • Determine cyclists' acceptance of saddles without protruding noses.

The report, "Effects of Bicycle Saddle Designs on the Pressure to the Perineum of the Bicyclist," was published in the June 2004 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (Volume 36, Number 6, pp. 1055-1062). An abstract of the report and access to the full text are available through the journal's web site, www.ms-se.com. For further information on NIOSH research pertaining to the assessment of effects associated with occupational cycling, visit the NIOSH Web page at www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/bikerepro/bikepagetop.html

 
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