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Prevalence of Urinary Incontinence: A Comparative Study of Collegiate FemaleAthletes and Non-Athletic Controls

Dockter, Mary PT, PhD*; Kolstad, Amanda M. DPT*; Martin, Kristine A. DPT*; Schiwal, Lacy J. DPT*

Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy: April 2007 - Volume 31 - Issue 1 - p 12–17
Research Report

Study Design: Prospective cross-sectional survey.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of urinary incontinence (UI) in female collegiate athletes compared to the prevalence in age-matched controls. A secondary purpose was to determine if there was a difference in the prevalence of UI among various sporting activities. A third purpose was to examine strategies used to prevent or manage UI in this population.

Background: Urinary incontinence is “the complaint of any involuntary leakage of urine” and is common among females with prevalence varying between 10% and 56% in women between the ages 15 and 64. While women commonly report UI during physical activity, it is not clear whether exercise is a causative factor in the development of UI.

Methods: Female collegiate athletes (n = 109) competing in track and field, basketball, soccer, softball, volleyball, and cheerleading and non-athlete controls (n = 68) between the ages of 18 and 25 completed a survey regarding their training history, general medical and menstrual history; and prevalence of stress urinary continence (SUI) and/or urge urinary incontinence UUI.

Results: No significant relationship was found between SUI or UUI, and group (athlete or non-athlete). The prevalence of UI ranged from 46.8% for athletes and 48.5% for non-athletes. Stress urinary incontinence associated with laughing, coughing, and sneezing was significantly higher in athletes involved in track and field, soccer, and volleyball. Leakage related to urge was significantly higher in athletes participating in track and field and volleyball. Of all subjects, 19.2% reported receiving education on pelvic floor strengthening with over 50% of the information coming from the media. Of those who had UI, 41.4% altered their frequency of urination or rushed to the bathroom and 30% did nothing to prevent leakage.

Conclusions: While there was no significant association between the athletic and control group in the prevalence of UI, the rates were high and consistent with other studies. Participants reported altering their urinary frequency as a method of prevention as well as a lack of education on pelvic floor muscle strengthening.

*University of Mary Bismarck, ND

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
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