Objectives: To assess the frequency and duration of symptoms suggesting peripheral nerve compression after long distance cycling.
Material and methods: A questionnaire based cross sectional study among 260 participants in a Norwegian annual bicycle touring race of 540 km.
Results: Thirty-five of 160 responding males (22%) reported symptoms from the innervation area of the pudendal or cavernous nerves. Thirty-three had penile numbness or hypaesthesia after the tour. In 10, the numbness lasted for more than one week. Impotence was reported by 21 (13%) of the males. It lasted for more than one week in 11, and for more than one month in three. Both genital numbness and impotence were correlated with weakness in the hands after the ride, a complaint reported by 32 (19%) of all 169 respondents. Forty-six cyclists (30%) indicated paraesthesia or numbness in the fingers, half of them from the ulnar nerve area only.
Conclusion: The frequency of impotence, numbness of the penis, hand weakness and sensory symptoms from the fingers in bicycle sport may be higher than hitherto recognized. It afflicts both experienced cyclists and novices. In some, the complaints may last up to eight months. Besides changing the hand and body position on the bike, restricting the training intensity, and taking ample pauses may also be necessary in prolonged and vigorous bicycle riding to prevent damage to peripheral nerves.