Men who are serious about mountain biking may run a serious risk of injuries to the scrotum, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that, compared with hard-core male cyclists who stayed on paved roads, those who biked rugged terrain were more likely to show abnormalities in ultrasound scans of the scrotum.
Fully 94 percent of the 85 mountain bikers had some form of scrotal abnormality - most often calcium deposits or cysts. That compared with 48 percent of 50 on-road cyclists, the researchers report in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine.
It's not clear what the ultrasound abnormalities mean, including whether they could affect mountain bikers' fertility, according to the researchers.
"Further studies should be undertaken to determine the clinical significance of the sonographic changes," write Dr Michael Mitterberger and his colleagues at the Medical University Innsbruck in Austria.
Linked to impotence
Biking, whether in rough terrain or on paved roads, has been linked to impotence in men, and it's thought that pressure from the bike seat can eventually damage blood vessels and nerves. With mountain biking, the off-road terrain makes the impact on the groin that much greater and past research has found that male mountain bikers may have a high prevalence of scrotal injuries.
The current study included men who biked on- or off-road for at least two hours per day, six days a week. Despite the many miles on-road cyclists logged, the percentage with scrotal abnormalities was significantly less when compared with mountain bikers.
There are measures that serious mountain bikers can take to lessen the impact from below.
One is to take frequent rests while biking. Padding in both the bike seat and bike shorts may also help. Experts also recommend that men be sure that the seat is raised high enough and that it sits at the proper angle.
According to Mitterberger's team, bikes with shock absorbers and suspension systems "are mandatory to reduce the potential risk" of scrotal injuries. However, they add, riders also need to hone their technical skills to lessen the chances of injury.
SOURCE: Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, January 2008. - (Reuters Health)
Protecting your bits