Cycling can seriously affect fertility, according to The Scotsman. Fertility decreases to endurance riders, the Press Association reported. But can cycling affect your fertility, for real? Let’s find out!
The studies behind it
All these were caused by the research presented to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology by the professor of the University of Medicine in Cordoba, Diana Vaamonde.
However, this study is not the first to address this problem.
In 1997, Dr. Irwin Goldstein, an fertility expert at the University of Boston, published data suggesting that spending time in the saddle is largely a precursor to infertility. Since then, studies of this kind have begun to appear more and more often.
So again, cyclists were warned that cycling can reduce the number of sperm even if the study at the University of Cordoba was not done on cyclists.
Of course, the triathlonists pedal a lot, but for this elite sample the athletes trained 9 times a week in the last 8 years. This exercise volume and their intensity could be the major cause of infertility, not cycling itself, research stresses.
‘Not only did the study group not be made up of cyclists, but when the story came out, suspicions were raised about the material from which the patches were made and the temperature of the testicles,’ says Allan Pacey of the University of Sheffield.
‘There is still no solid scientific data to certify that cycling can cause infertility in men.’
In the tests, the tested triathlonists had less than 10% healthy sperm (the most fertile men are around 15-20%). Then Vaamonde’s team studied athletes who traveled more than 300km in a week and found a 4% decrease in this percentage.
The study by Vaamonde failed to identify a cause for this decline. Instead, the report speculated that it could be due to irritation and compression caused by rubbing the saddle testicles or because of the tight equipment that raises their temperature.
However, she argued that reactive oxygen species could play an important role. These molecules react to the stress the body undergoes in endurance sports in a manner that can affect cellular structures.
Dr. Pacey insists that cyclists should not panic, stating that the link between cycling and infertility should be treated with caution.
Instead, she suggests that a number of factors may be to blame.
‘The fact that these athletes push their bodies to physical limits can have a much greater influence on sperm than cycling. When the body is under pressure – when you are sick, for example – a “luxury” like sperm production is put on the side by the body because blood and oxygen are concentrated on key organs,’ she said.
Does that mean that only cyclists who travel more than 300km per week can be affected?
Not quite, and not exactly. Pacey launches a warning, quoting a 1999 study by Ferdinand Frauscher, from the Department of Uroradiology at Innsbruck University Hospital.
Frauscher discovered, using ultrasounds, that 96% of the athletes practicing mountain biking showed irregularities such as cysts or even benign tumors.
According to Dr. David Ralph, a urogenital surgeon at the London Clinic, the trauma suffered by mountain bike riders should be a cause for concern to all of us.
‘Mountain biking can cause testicular shocks and even compress some nerves, leading to cysts and twisted veins,’ he said.
Ralph proposes the use of cut-away saddles and insists that cyclists should avoid excessive braking.
‘Undoubtedly, the main cause of infertility and erectile dysfunction nowadays is lack of movement and workouts for the cardiovascular system such as cycling,’ he adds.
Dr. Ralph is not the only expert who recommends cycling as a way to improve sexual function. Researchers from the Lancisi Heart Institute in Ancona, Italy, have found that cycling helps counteract the negative effects of medicines used by patients with heart problems.