Female Athletes, don’t let incontinence slow you down.
Are you a female athlete who loves high impact sports or like to lift weights? Do you like CrossFit or just love to jump on the trampoline with your kids? Maybe you are a marathon runner or love to jog for exercise or relaxation. Have you ever experienced any leaking during these activities that you had to stop or slow down or maybe use a pad during these activities? If the answer to any of this is yes, remember you are not alone. Study has shown that incontinence ranges between 28% to 80% with female athletes and has a significance impact on their quality of life. Studies have shown 25-28% of high school or college athletes who have never given birth can have incontinence. So, what is incontinence? Any voluntary leakage of urine is called incontinence.
There are three types of incontinence: Stress, Urge and Mixed.
Stress Urinary Incontinence is prevalent in athletes. It is the voluntary loss of urine when performing an activity that can increase intra-abdominal pressure (coughing, sneezing, lifting, jumping, sports, etc.). Most of the times athletic incontinence occurs when performing exercise/ sports. There are numerous reasons that can cause incontinence in athletes. You can have a weak pelvic floor. Yes, you heard it right. Women can have a six pack yet have a weak pelvic floor. Pelvic floor muscles are difficult to strengthen. Many women are unable to contract the pelvic floor correctly and substitute with surrounding muscles. Or you may have an overactive pelvic floor. When the pelvic floor is overactive, its always tight or in spasm. A tight muscle does not mean a strong one. It can fatigue causing weakness eventually leading to incontinence. You may also have imbalance in the core and pelvic floor muscles ( you may have a strong pelvic floor but weak inner core muscles or the opposite ) This will lead to imbalance in proper contraction and coordination of the muscles causing incontinence. So, what is the pelvic floor. Pelvic floor is a group of muscles in the pelvis. These muscles play an important role in support the organs, assist in bladder and bowel function, sexual function, acts as a sump pump. Athletes tend to push themselves beyond capacity to build strength and motor control. Depending on the sport you are into, you may be putting stress on your pelvic floor muscles. So, what can you do to prevent incontinence? Do you live with it or do you stop sports? The answer is NO to both. Focus on your breathing. Make sure you are engaging the right muscles at the right moment. DO NOT HOLD YOUR BREATH. DO NOT PERFORM KEGELS. That is right do not perform KEGELS because Kegels are not one exercise fit all. If your pelvic floor is overactive, Kegels will cause increase spasm and tightness making the incontinence worse. The pelvic floor needs to be trained with taking into consideration the specific muscles of that group. Just like the training program and nutrition for a basketball player will be different than a gymnast, pelvic floor condition will also differ.