The purposes of this literature review were to (1) assess the published literature on stress urinary incontinence (SUI) in female athletes and (2) suggest a model for physical therapy management.
This is a literature review.
Stress urinary incontinence in female athletes is a prevalent, but underreported, condition that significantly impacts quality of life and sport performance. Currently, best practice methods for screening, diagnosing, and treating SUI in female athletes have yet to be determined.
Methods and Measures:
A search of the literature was conducted using PubMed, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, and Web of Science databases. The initial search in PubMed “female athlete stress urinary incontinence” produced 21 articles. Further searches were conducted in all 3 databases using combinations of the following terms: “female,” “women,” “athletes,” “athletics,” “sports,” “urinary incontinence,” “stress urinary incontinence,” “stress incontinence,” “physical therapy, “physiotherapy,” “rehabilitation,” and “physical therapy modalities.”
The prevalence of urinary incontinence ranges between 28% and 80% in female athletes, and has a significant impact on the athlete's quality of life. There are effective interventions for treating urinary incontinence, specifically SUI, in the general population; however, these have not been validated in the female athlete population.
Health care providers should be aware of the prevalence and risk factors for SUI in female athletes. Providers can likely increase female athletes' access to SUI treatment with the knowledge of effective interventions in the general population. Further research is needed to determine the best practice for screening, diagnosis, and treatment of SUI in female athletes.