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The Association Between Pelvic Discomfort and Erectile Dysfunction in Adult Male Bicyclists.

  • Author(s): Balasubramanian, Adithya
  • Yu, Justin
  • Breyer, Benjamin N
  • Minkow, Roger
  • Eisenberg, Michael L
  • et al.
Abstract

Background

Bicycle riding's impact on erectile function remains a topic of great interest given cycling's popularity as a mode of transportation and exercise.

Aim

We evaluated risk factors for sexual dysfunction in male cyclists with the primary intention of determining if genital/pelvic pain and numbness are associated with erectile dysfunction (ED).

Methods

We surveyed male cyclists using an online anonymous questionnaire. Cyclists were queried on their demographics, cycling experience, and sexual function using the Sexual Health Inventory for Men (SHIM). ED was diagnosed when a completed SHIM score was <22. Regression analysis was used to evaluate the risk of ED in men with genital/pelvic pain or numbness after riding. The survey was designed in the United States.

Outcomes

Quantitative characterization of cycling habits, onset and timing of genital pain and numbness, and SHIM score.

Results

A total of 1635 participants completed the survey. A majority of men were over the age of 50 (58%, 934/1,607), Caucasian (88%, 1,437/1,635), had been active cyclists for over 10 years (63%, 1,025/1,635) and used road bikes (97%, 1,578/1,635). Overall, 22%, 30%, and 57% of men reported ED, genital pain, and genital numbness, respectively. While controlling for cohort demographics, body mass index, cycling intensity and equipment, and medical comorbidities, no saddle characteristics were associated with the risk of developing genital numbness. However, men reporting penile numbness were at higher risk of reporting ED (odds ratio [OR] = 1.453, P = .048). In addition, quicker onset of numbness and resolution of numbness within a day was associated with impaired erectile function. For example, numbness occurring less than 1 hour after cycling had greater odds of leading to ED than numbness after 5 hours (OR = 2.002, P = .032). Similarly, genital pain occurring less than 1 hour (OR = 2.466, P = .031) after cycling was associated with higher ED risk.

Strengths & limitations

Strengths include a large sample size of high-intensity cyclists and validated questionnaire use. Limitations include reliance on anonymous self-reported survey data and minimal inquiry into the riding preferences and terrain traversed by cyclists.

Conclusions

Pelvic pain and numbness are common complaints among male riders in the United States. Men with such complaints are more likely to also report ED especially if it occurs earlier in the ride. Although direction of causality and temporality are uncertain, alleviation of factors resulting in pelvic discomfort may reduce cycling's impact on sexual function. Such interventions are critical given that cycling for both active travel and aerobic exercise confers numerous health benefits. Balasubramanian A, Yu J, Breyer BN, et al. The Association Between Pelvic Discomfort and Erectile Dysfunction in Adult Male Bicyclists. J Sex Med 2020;17:919-929.

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