With words like jumping, diving, spiking, hitting, and blocking making up the game's activities, volleyball is clearly a sport that requires a healthy pelvic floor. We know that athletes are at risk for pelvic dysfunction, with symptoms ranging from tension to leakage, but what happens when the pelvic floor is reeducated? In a study addressing volleyball players, researchers assess the effectiveness of a pelvic muscle rehabilitation program on symptoms of urinary incontinence. 32 female athletes were divided evenly between a control group and an experimental group. Inclusions criteria for the sample was nulliparity, symptoms of stress urinary incontinence, age between 13 and 30, and leakage amount more than 1 gram on the pad weight test. Exclusion criteria is as follows: treatment time of less than six months, sport practice for less than two years, urinary tract infections (either current or repeated prior infections), intervention adherence less than 50%, or body mass index outside of the range of 18-25.
Before and after intervention, the athletes were given a baseline questionnaire, a pad test (in the first 15 minutes of volleyball practice), and they completed seven days of a bladder diary to track leakage. The treatment group were instructed in anatomy and physiology of the lower urinary tract, about urinary incontinence (UI) and UI in athletes, and in leakage prevention strategies. A 3-day bladder diary was completed to improve awareness of fluid intake and bladder habits. Pelvic muscle awareness and correct contractions, doing protective pre-contractions of the pelvic floor, and a home exercise program of quick and endurance pelvic muscle contractions in different positions were also instructed.
The results of the intervention include a significant decrease in urinary leakage in the treatment group. The education provided also allowed for prevention of negative coping strategies that were reported in the subjects: the athletes would conceal leakage by wearing a menstrual pad, decreased their fluid intake, or empty their bladder more frequently. This study contributes to the growing body of evidence linking sport to pelvic dysfunction, and more importantly, rehabilitation efforts to improvement. If you want to learn more about pelvic dysfunction in athletes, come to The Athlete and the Pelvic Floor with Michelle Lyons. This 2-day continuing education course took place recently in New York City and your next opportunity to take the class is in Denver in October!