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The price men pay for pedalling

Washington, Oct. 20: America’s National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has published a study that could send a chill among millions of cyclists in India.

Or in China, where, in the vast countryside, bicycles continue to be the primary mode of of transport to work or to any other chore.

The study has discovered that policemen in the US who ride bikes as part of their job have fewer erections than policemen who do not ride bikes.

Though the study was completed over a year ago, it languished until consumer activists and medical academics got hold of it a week ago.

Americans, worried about impotence from biking for exercise or pleasure, are now up in arms demanding that bicycle manufacturers alter bike designs and make better seats to ward off any threat to their sex lives.

The institute studied 29 policemen — those who used bicycles during work and others who did not. It discovered that 14 of the 15 policemen covered by the study experienced numbness in their buttocks, scrotum, testicles or sexual organs during or after bicycle rides.

In varying degrees, the numbness came between 10 minutes to three hours of riding and lasted anything between five minutes to 24 hours.

The institute conducted the study following a demand from a trade union — the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers — which was concerned about the sexual hazards of using bicycles as a professional tool.

There is worry here that the study may now be used for huge compensation claims from employers who asked employees to bike as part of their work. Manufacturers who sold exercise bikes also risk law suits for big compensation.

As part of the study, the institute made the policemen wear erection-monitoring devices when they went to sleep on two consecutive nights.

The devices recorded that the percentage of sleeping time when biking policemen had erection was only 26.2 per cent compared to 42.8 per cent for men who did not use bicycles to enforce the law.

This percentage increased or decreased depending on the number of hours a policeman rode his bike, establishing a direct link between cycling and sexual dysfunction.

The measured pressure between an officer’s body and the bicycle seat was also directly related to the percentage.

Blood hormone levels and semen quality were normal among all officers: the bicycle, it was thus established, was at the root of the problem.

Discussing the findings on television last week, Dr Irwin Goldstein of Boston University said: “When you sit on a bicycle seat, you rest your 170-pound torso directly on the arteries. It absolutely makes no sense to take any organ of the human body and compress the arterial blood flow to it for any period of time.”

Following the study, the institute has asked police authorities to investigate the possibility of bicycle seats without a nose or other extension.

A popular demand on those lines with bike manufacturers across America may be on the anvil. Some manufacturers have already come out with seats that are supposed to put less pressure in affected areas of the body, but as yet, such seats are available only in special bicycle shops.

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