Poster Presentations: AUGS Abstracts: 2005 26th Annual Scientific Meeting of The American Urogynecologic Society
Millions of women, including young, nulliparous athletes, report urinary stress incontinence. Previous research indicates that elite, weight-bearing athletes report greater incidence of incontinence when compared with age-matched female nonathletes. The purpose of this study was to compare pelvic floor muscle activity and frequency of incontinence in weight-bearing female competitive athletes with that of female nonathletes.
Nulliparous females aged 18–25 years were recruited and divided into 2 groups based on weekly exercise time and athletic involvement. Group one consisted of 33 women who were participants in a NCAA Division I sport, and group 2 consisted of 25 female nonathletes. Body fat composition was assessed using the standard 7-site analysis with Harpenden skinfold calipers. Pelvic floor muscle activity was measured using EMG biofeedback through surface electrodes with the patient in a stationary, supine position. The testing segment included 10 cycles of a 5-second contraction period followed by a 10-second relaxation period. Force, work averages, and rest averages were calculated in microvolts from each 10-contraction cycle testing segment. Subjects also completed a questionnaire to determine the frequency of urinary incontinence. Descriptive statistics were compiled for both groups, and a one-way analysis of variance was used to compare pelvic floor muscle activity between groups.
There were no significant differences between groups in age, weight, height, or percentage of body fat. Athletes did report significantly greater exercise times (P=0.05). There was no significant difference in pelvic floor muscle activity between athletes and nonathletes. Urinary incontinence with exercise was reported in 60.61% of athletes compared with 28.0% of nonathletes. Urinary incontinence with basic activities of daily living was reported in 34.5% of the entire sample. Finally, 80% of nonathletes and 88% of athletes reported no experience with pelvic floor muscle exercise.
Although there was no significant difference in pelvic floor muscle activity between athletes and nonathletes, the athletes did report greater frequency of incontinence with exercise. Athletes also reported significantly greater exercise time. This suggests that pelvic floor muscle activity alone does not predict urinary incontinence and that activity related to incontinence should also be considered. The results from this study also corroborate prior studies reporting urinary stress incontinence as prevalent among female athletes. Although urinary incontinence was reported by both groups, knowledge of pelvic floor muscle exercise was clearly absent. Future studies may focus on the role of increasing pelvic floor muscle strength to prevent urinary incontinence even in nulliparous women.