The dangers of cycling

A study in Austria shows that strenuous biking is hard on the scrotum.

By Jack Boulware

Published October 25, 2000 7:23PM (EDT)

Males who return from an arduous day of mountain biking and discover that their balls are bruised and sore should no longer wonder if such activity is dangerous. According to a recent study from Austria, it is.

In a necessarily delicate study of 45 male mountain bikers published this week in the Lancet, a research team from University Hospital in Innsbruck concluded that 96 percent experienced "scrotal abnormalities," including calcium deposits, cysts and twisted veins -- the latter of which are known to impair fertility. (Oh, and we shouldn't neglect to mention the pain from being continually smashed against a bike seat.) A comparative study of 31 nonbiking males showed that only 16 percent had such abnormalities, with the rest of the group demonstrating healthy, robust scrota.

Dr. Ferdinand Frauscher, author of the study, told reporters that the results indicate that mountain bikers can definitely develop fertility problems. Aside from twisted veins, another potential cause of impotence is the pressure from a bike seat, which can damage blood vessels and nerves. During mountain biking in particular, Frauscher stressed, the rough-and-tumble terrain jostles the scrota even more.

Frauscher and his colleagues encourage bicycling men to reduce the risk of scrotal injury by taking frequent rests. Another helpful hint is to add layers of padding in bike shorts and to the bike seat itself. And bikers are advised to properly adjust the height and angle of the bike seat.

But the doctor said all this doesn't mean you have to give up biking. "We think biking is a healthy sport," Frauscher said.

Jack Boulware

Jack Boulware is a writer in San Francisco and author of "San Francisco Bizarro" and "Sex American Style."

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