Reading an article in the LA Times about bike seats reminded me of a repeated experience that I had during my biking days.
While blasting along on the 70th mile of a bike race, I experienced the worse case scenario. The night before, I decided to reorient my bike seat in order to put more weight into my legs. I had read it in a biking magazine and it seemed like a good idea.
Little did I know, this slight modification of the seat caused a slight but constant pressure against…well…Mr. Winky. Mr. Winky is the most sensitive and reactive part of a male’s body, and to have numbness where life springs from was extraordinarily alarming. In fact it was numbness in a saddle distribution (for those neurological buffs it was in the Pudendal nerve or cauda equine distribution) which is bad. Let me just state for the record, Mr. Winky under any circumstance should not be numb.
What did I do? I finished a race nobody remembers in third place and then curled up in the trunk of my car for an hour in fetal position as the circulation returned.
My point: there are certain pains an athlete should not push through. Yeah, I know pushing beyond pain, conquering the elements, leading the pack and charging to the top are all very sexy elements that enhance athletic drama. Numbness, long term pain, muscular loss, pain into the joints, excessive swelling, altered sleep states or loss of function are symptoms of more serious long term conditions that should not be ignored.
These symptoms usually manifest slowly, but have dire consequences in the long run. If you have encountered any of these symptoms, you should consult a properly trained medical professional to find a solution. Often the solution is simple, and more importantly, will allow you a long career in your sport.
Remember, a smart athlete knows when to take care of themselves as well as when to kick some butt.