Too Strong for Her Floor

Last month I was invited to speak at a Sports Medicine Australia Conference on the ‘Female Athletic pelvic floor’. Elite female athletes have an unacceptably high rate of incontinence associated with their training and sport. Like the rest of the female population, athletes have little idea of their pelvic floor function and very few regularly exercise their pelvic floor muscles. 

Female elite athletes like the rest of the female population have a poor idea of how their pelvic floor works and few systematically exercise their pelvic floor muscles. Many jumping and landing sports manage incontinence with fluid restriction, bladder emptying before events and wearing protective pads. Surprisingly, athletic screening programs do not routinely screen to detect females with or at risk of developing pelvic floor problems. Trampolining has the highest rate of incontinence (80% in young elite women) and studies show this high rate persists when the athletes leave the sport.

Early pelvic floor dysfunction has obvious implications on the athletes increased risk of incontinence, prolapse and sexual dysfunction as she ages. It’s crucial that routine screening tests and questions are introduced into sporting screening programs and for routine pelvic floor exercises to become a part of the training program. Education of athletes, coaches and the medical team on the short and long term benefits of PFM training is long overdue to reduce female athletic pelvic floor dysfunction.