Cycling stresses our body, in particular in certain areas, more than we think and can cause consequences we need to have more information and awareness about.
A recent study that reviewed sixty-two pertinent medical-scientific articles found that the most common problems and pathologies that afflict cyclists are:
NUMBNESS IN THE PERINEUM: due to the reduction in blood supply caused by the prolonged compression of the local circulatory ducts. This problem, which is more or less prominent, is found in 65% - 95% of the cases, and manifests during cycling; in almost all the cases it disappears a few minutes after cycling, to appear again the next time.
CHRONIC PERINEUM PAIN: reported by between 50% and 91% of the cyclists surveyed, associated with genital-perineum desensitization (and consequent moderate to severe erectile dysfunction) in 13% - 24 % of the cases. The influential variables to be considered as regards theses disorders and their manifestation in more or less severe forms are age (especially over 50 years), body weight, cycling history (at least 10 years) and the frequency of training (more than 3 hours per week). The percentages reported above indicate that the problems caused by the saddle are by far the most frequent and common among cyclists and, as you will agree, are also particularly irritating and delicate.
Research has highlighted other pathologies, some of which are quite serious, though fortunately less frequent, correlated with intensive cycling:
PRIAPISM: caused by high or irregular blood flow to cavernous bodies of the penis and consists of a painful and prolonged erection. It results from vascular trauma and causes the formation of arterial-venous fistula.
INFERTILITY: prolonged and intense exercise causes an increase in scrotal temperature, which damages spermatozoa formation and modifies the hormonal balance of the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis.
HORMONAL EFFETS FROM STRENUOUS CYCLING: several studies have reported how psychological-physical stress in cyclists can generally lead to important changes in hormonal balance and a decrease in testosterone and cortisone levels.
SERUM PSA LEVEL: numerous studies have also shown the increase in serum PSA concentrations after cycling, probably caused by the pressure of the saddle on the perineum and prostrate. Cyclists with prostrate tumours and those with abnormal serum PSA values (especially if over 50 years of age) should be informed of this potential effect of cycling.
TESTIS CANCER: many researchers have found a significant increase in risk of testicular seminoma in cyclists (probably connected to repeated and frequent scrotal traumas); instead, on this subject other researchers prefer to highlight how exercise is a protective factor against testicular cancer and may counterbalance incidence in cyclists.
PERINEAL LESIONS: constant and prolonged contact between the saddle and the perineum can cause different types of lesions, including calluses, ulcerations, skin irritation, furuncles and folliculitis. The most characteristic perineal nodular lesion from cycling is the “biker’s nodule” or “third testicle”. This nodule is usually characterized by an elastic-callous formation, a few centimetres long, covered by normal skin. Surgical removal is usually the primary treatment.
HEMATURIA: hematuria from sports activity, even originating from trauma (repeated microtraumas on the bladder and kidneys), is directly correlated with the duration of exercise.
TORSION OF SPERMATIC FUNICLE: the correlation between this disorder and cycling is still controversial and a subject of debate; the cause of torsion could be linked to an endoscrotal movement of the testicles when pedalling, accompanied by an accentuated contraction of the cremasters.
From the anatomical point of view, the neurovascular structures compressed by the saddle during cycling are the same in men and women. Therefore, women also report disorders and functional anomalies linked to cycling. The most frequent and main ones are anorgasmia, ulcerations and lymphedema of the vulva, difficult urination, chronic perineal pain, and hematuria.
The two important conclusions reached are:
Pressure on the perineum and the consequent squashing of the neurovascular structures can even be the cause of rather serious genitourinary disorders.
The geometry of the saddle can directly influence the reduction of pressure and is therefore a fundamental parameter to consider and evaluate when choosing a saddle.
These conclusions led Selle SMP to carry out research in order to offer cyclists a valid solution. Today, authoritative studies and experiments have proved us right.
For more informationes go to the section SMP4BIKE: designed on your body