(646) 355-8777

Herman & Wallace Blog

Pelvic Health for Athletes

When I bring up the topic of pelvic floor dysfunction in athletes, stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is usually the first aspect of pelvic health that springs to mind – and rightly so, as professional sport is one of the risk factors for stress urinary incontinence Poswiata et al 2014. The majority of studies show that the average prevalence of urinary incontinence across all sports is 50%, with SUI being the most common lower urinary tract symptom. Athletes are constantly subject to repeated sudden & considerable rises in intra-abdominal pressure: e.g. heel striking, jumping, landing, dismounting and racquet loading.

What’s less often discussed is the topic of gastrointestinal dysfunction in athletes. Anal incontinence in athletes is not well documented, although a study from Vitton et al in 2011 found a higher prevalence than in age matched controls (conversely a study by Bo & Braekken in 2007 found no incidence). More recently, Nygaard reported earlier this year (2016) that young women participating in high-intensity activity are more likely to report anal incontinence than less active women.

A presentation by Colleen Fitzgerald, MD at the American Urogynecologic Society meeting in 2014 highlighted the multifaceted nature of pelvic floor dysfunction in female athletes, specifically in this case, triathletes. The study found that one in three female triathletes suffers from a pelvic floor disorder such as urinary incontinence, bowel incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. One in four had one component of the "female athlete triad", a condition characterized by decreased energy, menstrual irregularities and abnormal bone density from excessive exercise and inadequate nutrition. Researchers surveyed 311 women for this study with a median age range of 35 – 44. These women were involved with triathlete groups and most (82 percent) were training for a triathlon at the time of the survey. On average, survey participants ran 3.7 days a week, biked 2.9 days a week and swam 2.4 days a week.

Of those who reported pelvic floor disorder symptoms, 16% had urgency urinary incontinence, 37.4% had stress urinary incontinence, 28% had bowel incontinence and 5% had pelvic organ prolapse. Training mileage and intensity were not associated with pelvic floor disorder symptoms. 22% of those surveyed screened positive for disordered eating, 24% had menstrual irregularities and 29% demonstrated abnormal bone strength. With direct access becoming a reality for many of us, we must acknowledge the need for specific questioning when it comes to pelvic health issues, as well as the ability to recognise signs and symptoms of the female athlete triad in our patients.

Want to learn more about pelvic health for athletes? Join me in beautiful Arlington this November 5-6 at The Athlete and the Pelvic Floor!


J Hum Kinet. 2014 Dec 9; 44: 91–96 Published online 2014 Dec 30. doi:10.2478/hukin-2014-0114 PMCID: PMC4327384. Prevalence of Stress Urinary Incontinence in Elite Female Endurance Athlete Anna Poświata, Teresa Socha and Józef Opara1
J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2011 May;20(5):757-63. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2010.2454. Epub 2011 Apr 18. Impact of high-level sport practice on anal incontinence in a healthy young female population. Vitton V, Baumstarck-Barrau K, Brardjanian S, Caballe I, Bouvier M, Grimaud JC.
Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2016 Feb;214(2):164-71. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2015.08.067. Epub 2015 Sep 6. Physical activity and the pelvic floor. Nygaard IE, Shaw JM.

Helping Our Patients Take One Step Forward
Reaching deeper when treating chronic pelvic pain

Upcoming Continuing Education Courses

Pregnancy Rehabilitation - Seattle, WA (SOLD OUT)

Feb 22, 2020 - Feb 23, 2020
Location: Pacific Medical Centers

Manual Therapy Techniques for the Pelvic Rehab Therapist - Pasadena, CA

Feb 22, 2020 - Feb 23, 2020
Location: Huntington Hospital

Pelvic Floor Level 2B - Alexandria, VA (SOLD OUT)

Feb 28, 2020 - Mar 1, 2020
Location: Inova Physical Therapy Center

Pelvic Floor Level 2B - Fort Worth, TX (SOLD OUT)

Feb 28, 2020 - Mar 1, 2020
Location: University of North Texas Health Science Center

Pediatric Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders - Charlotte, NC

Feb 28, 2020 - Mar 1, 2020
Location: Novant Health

Rehabilitative Ultrasound Imaging: Orthopedic Topics - Raleigh, NC

Feb 28, 2020 - Feb 29, 2020
Location: Rex Hospital

Pelvic Floor Series Capstone - Phoenix, AZ (SOLD OUT)

Mar 6, 2020 - Mar 8, 2020
Location: 360 Sports Medicine & Aquatic Rehabilitation Centers

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Salida, CO (SOLD OUT)

Mar 6, 2020 - Mar 8, 2020
Location: Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Columbia, MO

Mar 6, 2020 - Mar 8, 2020
Location: University of Missouri-Smiley Lane Therapy Services

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Princeton, NJ (SOLD OUT)

Mar 6, 2020 - Mar 8, 2020
Location: Princeton Healthcare System

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - New Orleans, LA (SOLD OUT)

Mar 6, 2020 - Mar 8, 2020
Location: Ochsner Health System

Mobilization of the Myofascial layer: Pelvis and Lower Extremity- Grand Rapids, MI

Mar 6, 2020 - Mar 8, 2020
Location: Spectrum Health System

Bowel Pathology and Function -Salt Lake City, UT

Mar 7, 2020 - Mar 8, 2020
Location: Veterans Administration - Salt Lake City

Postpartum Rehabilitation - Washington, DC (SOLD OUT)

Mar 7, 2020 - Mar 8, 2020
Location: GWUH Outpatient Rehabilitation Center

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Virginia Beach, VA (SOLD OUT)

Mar 13, 2020 - Mar 15, 2020
Location: Sentara Therapy Center - Princess Anne

Pelvic Floor Level 2A - Philadelphia, PA (SOLD OUT)

Mar 13, 2020 - Mar 15, 2020
Location: Thomas Jefferson University

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Manchester, NH (SOLD OUT)

Mar 13, 2020 - Mar 15, 2020
Location: Franklin Pierce University

Meeks Method for Osteoporosis - Minneapolis, MN

Mar 14, 2020 - Mar 15, 2020
Location: Park Nicollet Clinic--St. Louis Park

Pelvic Floor Level 2A - Minneapolis, MN (SOLD OUT)

Mar 20, 2020 - Mar 22, 2020
Location: Allina Hospitals and Clinics

Nutrition Perspectives for the Pelvic Rehab Therapist - San Diego, CA

Mar 20, 2020 - Mar 22, 2020
Location: Comprehensive Therapy Services

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Birmingham, AL (SOLD OUT)

Mar 20, 2020 - Mar 22, 2020
Location: Shelby Baptist Medical Center

Mobilization of Visceral Fascia: The Urinary System - Carlsbad, CA

Mar 20, 2020 - Mar 22, 2020
Location: Tri-City Medical Center

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Bellingham, WA (SOLD OUT)

Mar 20, 2020 - Mar 22, 2020
Location: PeaceHealth- St. Joseph Medical Center

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Los Angeles, CA (SOLD OUT)

Mar 20, 2020 - Mar 22, 2020
Location: Mount Saint Mary’s University

Breastfeeding Conditions - Phoenix, AZ

Mar 21, 2020 - Mar 22, 2020
Location: Banner Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation

Breathing and the Diaphragm: Orthopedic Therapists - Sterling Heights, MI

Mar 27, 2020 - Mar 29, 2020
Location: Henry Ford Macomb Hospital

Breathing and the Diaphragm: Pelvic and Orthopedic Therapists - Sterling Heights, MI

Mar 27, 2020 - Mar 29, 2020
Location: Henry Ford Macomb Hospital

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Corvallis, OR (SOLD OUT)

Mar 27, 2020 - Mar 29, 2020
Location: Albany Sport & Spine Physical Therapy

Breast Cancer Rehabilitation - Alexandria, VA

Mar 28, 2020 - Mar 29, 2020
Location: Inova Physical Therapy Center