The effect of long-distance bicycling on ulnar and median nerves: An electrophysiologic evaluation of cyclist palsy

Venu Akuthota*, Christopher Plastaras, Kirstin Lindberg, John Tobey, Joel Press, Cynthia Garvan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

48 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Distal ulnar neuropathies have been identified in cyclists because of prolonged grip pressures on handlebars. The so-called cyclist palsy has been postulated to be an entrapment neuropathy of the ulnar nerve in the Guyon canal of the wrist. Previous studies utilizing nerve conduction studies have typically been either case reports or small case series. Hypothesis: Electrophysiologic changes will be present in the ulnar and median nerves after a long-distance multiday cycling event. Study Design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 2. Methods: A total of 28 adult hands from 14 subjects underwent median and ulnar motor and sensory nerve conductions, which were performed on both hands before and after a 6-day, 420-mile bike tour. A ride questionnaire was also administered after the ride, evaluating the experience level of the cyclist, equipment issues, hand position, and symptoms during the ride. Results: Distal motor latencies of the deep branch of the ulnar nerve to the first dorsal interosseous were significantly prolonged after the long-distance cycling event. The median motor and sensory studies as well as the ulnar sensory and motor studies of the abductor digiti minimi did not change significantly. Electrophysiologic and symptomatic worsening of carpal tunnel syndrome was observed in 3 hands, with the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome in 1 hand after the ride. Conclusion: Long-distance cycling may promote physiologic changes in the deep branch of the ulnar nerve and exacerbate symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1224-1230
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine
Volume33
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2005

Keywords

  • Cycling
  • Electrodiagnostics
  • Nerve entrapment
  • Ulnar neuropathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

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