Urinary Leakage: Females in Fitness and Sport

Urinary leakage is a common occurrence for females in fitness and sport at all ages and levels; however, common does not mean normal.

As women, we often hear things in our friend circles and in the media (hello, incontinence commercials!) that lead us to believe that urinary leakage is something we must put up with as we get older; that leakage is something that comes along with motherhood or menopause. Perhaps even worse, the younger females in their teens and twenties who leak urine during sport, get absolutely no attention, and are potentially keeping these issues quietly to themselves and not knowing what to do about it.

I am here to dispel these rumors and let you know the truth behind urinary leakage and how you can have a life of freedom from these ideas that you must wear pads every day or while you work out, that you must wear black leggings to exercise, that you must avoid running or jumping, that you must empty your bladder before specific exercises, and free you from the continuous thoughts of “where is the nearest restroom?“.

Worst of all, I want you to know that you don’t have to give up something you love because of leakage. Let’s dive into this issue and show you what is possible if you seek a solution to this problem.

Urinary incontinence is a symptom of the pelvic floor, and in this particular scenario, we are discussing stress incontinence.

Stress incontinence is the unintentional leaking of urine during physical activity such as running, jumping, bouncing, squatting, etc. Approximately 47% of exercising females experience urinary leakage during exercise, and another 28% of young female athletes who’ve never been pregnant or given birth also leak urine during exercise. Sports that involve jumping and running are most common, such as gymnastics, dance, basketball, and track. However, leakage can occur with nearly any activity.

Data shows that many of these females choose to quit their activities rather than seek out a provider who can help them overcome the issue. In my passionate point of view, I want the word to spread that quitting exercise is not the solution; pelvic floor PT is. Exercise is just too important for our overall health, quality of life, longevity, and functionality.

No way do I want people quitting exercise!

(A whole different blog post for another day, but did you know that the #1 reason people go into nursing home care is urinary incontinence and functional decline? This can be prevented through pelvic floor PT and continuing to exercise well into our elderly years).

So, you leak urine when you exercise or play sport.

Here’s what I want you to know:

  1. You can overcome this!
  2. We have a staff that specializes in this very thing here at Apex PT!
  3. Read below to learn the ways in which we help you.

Pelvic floor physical therapy involves evaluating the whole person, not just the pelvic floor. We look at movements, mobility, strength, coordination and how the pelvic floor is integrated into your patterns and function. Specifically, your pelvic floor is a critical component to your core strength, your breathing patterns impact incontinence, your alignment and exercise technique makes a difference to leakage, and the way you “engage your core” can be taught properly so you leak less.

A pelvic floor PT will become your personal problem solver, helping to determine what the root cause is to your incontinence, and teach you the ways in which we can get you from a leaky bladder to staying dry during your exercise endeavors.


References

Nygaard et al. (1990). Exercise and Incontinence. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 75(5):848-851.
Nygaard et al. (1994). Urinary Incontinence in Elite Nulliparous Athletes. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 84(2):183-187

Written by:

ASHLEY RILEY, PT, DPT, SCS, MHA, CYT

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