Incontinence in female adolescent athletes

 

By Anna Burns, PT, DPT

 

There is a common misconception that incontinence only affects new moms and older women.  In fact, it affects women (and men) across the lifespan, from childhood through the golden years.  More attention is starting to be paid to adolescent female athletes and their struggles with incontinence, not only on the athletic fields but even with regular activities like laughing and coughing.

 

One study found 34% of female adolescent athletes endorsed incontinence when asked via questionnaire (1).  An ongoing study is finding that the sports of highest risk for incontinence include gymnastics, horseback riding, basketball, volleyball, and martial arts.  Those of moderate risk include tennis and skiing. These sports increase pressures in the abdomen and on the pelvic floor, thus contributing to leakage (2).

 

Does this mean your child should stop these activities?  Absolutely not! However, DO have a conversation with her about bladder leakage.  Teens will often not tell anyone about their incontinence until later in life, whether they think it’s normal or are just too embarrassed to share.  The good news is that there are many things that can be done NOW through pelvic floor physical therapy that can not only improve their symptoms but also prevent pelvic floor dysfunction in the future.  By working on pelvic floor coordination, core and hip strength, breathing mechanics, and posture, we can alter the intra-abdominal pressures that contribute to leakage.

 

Don’t let your child suffer in silence.  Help is available!  

 

Citations:

  1. Urinary incontinence among adolescent female athletes

Logan, Bridget Linehan et al.

Journal of Pediatric Urology, Volume 14, Issue 3, 241.e1 – 241.e9

 

  1. Stress Urinary Incontinence in Teenage Girls Practicing Sports

Medee, Beatrice and Guegan, Christophe.  2018

clinicaltrials.gov identifier: NCT03309397

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