Many believe that incontinence is something that only elderly men and women deal with but in fact, incontinence affects people of all ages. In many cases, there are women who have given birth before who have incontinence, and even athletes–who don’t have children–suffer from it, too. It’s quite remarkable how diverse of a population incontinence affects.
Incontinence Among Female Athletes
In a recent study published in PubMed.gov, doctors found that more than one-quarter of collegiate female athletes–who do not have children–experience a form of incontinence while taking part in physical activity. Specifically, basketball players and gymnasts have shown to suffer the most from this ailment with 67% and 66%. Least affected were women who played softball, golf, volleyball, and swim.
In a different study, researchers found that 35% of female Olympic track and field athletes experienced leakage episodes during their competitions. Additionally, another study confirmed that out of 372 female Portuguese athletes, 30% showed signs of urinary incontinence.
Treating Athletes With Incontinence Is Different
The treatment for incontinence within athletes is not the same, and that’s where many are having issues. Many physicians will assign a treatment plan that is tailored towards women who suffer from incontinence postpartum and this is a huge mistake.
The main cause of incontinence in new mothers is due to a weakened pelvic floor and the best way to build up that strength in through the continued practice of kegels. However, kegels are NOT recommended to be performed by athletes. Isa Herrera, a physical therapist and strength conditioning coach states, “For them, kegels can be the worst thing to do since it puts more pressure on an already disproportionately strained system” (Source).
The real problem comes down to their workout routine; in many athletes, the focus of their workout is to build a strong core (rock solid abs), but when this happens, many tend to neglect the internal muscle groups that surround it. Herrera claims that she sees this type of problem in athletes who tend to participate in a substantial amount of core and glute workouts, cycling, and P90X. Luckily, there are other forms of treatment that can be issued to female athletes who suffer from incontinence that does not involve the performance of kegels.
Tips For Female Athletes With Incontinence
If you are a female athlete that suffers from episodes of incontinence but are unsure of your next steps, here are a few tips to follow:
Talk to someone: If you suffer from incontinence, there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about; you are not alone. The most important thing at this point is to not brush it off as something insignificant. The longer you put it off, the worse it can potentially get. Speak up to a coach or a doctor and they can lead you to your next step.
You won’t have to cease exercise: A major concern in women with incontinence is that if they admit to this problem, they may have to discontinue their daily workouts until they are healed. That is a very common misconception and a mistake that many women make. You will not have to stop working out, but you may have to tweak your routine a bit. Doctors and physician recommend exercises that will help to stabilize the pelvic region. For example, using a vaginal weight while running or taking part in yoga.
Find the right doctor for you: For athletes, it’s paramount to find a doctor that specializes in the pelvic floor region as well as sports medicine for the best treatment results. You’ll find that many physicians will recommend that you practice a form of exercise called ‘lean and breath’. Basically, practicing leaning forward while running; this will improve the range of motion in your legs while relaxing the abdomen. At the same time, practice inhaling and expanding with your stomach instead of sucking it in. This will reduce any downward pressure that is being placed on your pelvic region
By using these tips to your advantage and talking to the right doctor, you will be able to manage and treat your incontinence while participating in your athletic activities.