Introduction. There are numerous genital complaints in women cyclists, including pain, numbness, and edema of pelvic floor structures. Debate ensues about the best saddle design for protection of the pelvic floor.
Aim. To investigate the relationships between saddle design, seat pressures, and genital nerve function in female, competitive cyclists.
Methods. We previously compared genital sensation in healthy, premenopausal, competitive women bicyclists and runners. The 48 cyclists from our original study comprise the study group in this subanalysis.
Main Outcome Measures. Main outcome measures were: (i) genital vibratory thresholds (VTs) determined using the Medoc Vibratory Sensation Analyzer 3000 and (ii) saddle pressures as determined using a specially designed map sensor.
Results. More than half of the participants (54.8%) used traditional saddles, and the remainder (45.2%) rode with cut-out saddles. On bivariate analysis, use of traditional saddles was associated with lower mean perineal saddle pressures (MPSP) than riding on cut-out saddles. Peak perineal saddle pressures (PPSP) were also lower; however, the difference did not reach statistical significance. Saddle design did not affect mean or peak total saddle pressures (MTSP, PTSP). Saddle width was significantly associated with PPSP, MTSP, and PTSP but not with MPSP. Women riding cut-out saddles had, on average, a 4 and 11 kPa increase in MPSP and PPSP, respectively, compared with women using traditional saddles (P = 0.008 and P = 0.010), after adjustment for other variables. Use of wider saddles was associated with lower PPSP and MTSP after adjustment. Although an inverse correlation was seen between saddle pressures and VTs on bivariate analysis, these differences were not significant after adjusting for age.
Conclusion. Cut-out and narrower saddles negatively affect saddle pressures in female cyclists. Effects of saddle design on pudendal nerve sensory function were not apparent in this cross-sectional analysis. Longitudinal studies evaluating the long-term effects of saddle pressure on the integrity of the pudendal nerve, pelvic floor, and sexual function are warranted. Guess MK, Partin SN, Schrader S, Lowe B, LaCombe J, Reutman S, Wang A, Toennis C, Melman A, Mikhail M, and Connell KA. Women's bike seats: A pressing matter for competitive female cyclists. J Sex Med 2011;8:3144–3153.