Female athletes have higher prevalence rates of stress urinary incontinence (SUI) than their nonexercising peers. However, there is limited understanding on factors related to SUI in female collegiate athletes.
The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between sport and athlete characteristics and SUI prevalence in nulliparous female collegiate athletes.
Two hundred nine NCAA Division II female nulliparous collegiate athletes participated in the survey. Physical activity was measured using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) and incontinence was measured with the International Consultation on Incontinence Questionnaire Urinary Incontinence Short Form (ICIQ UI-SF). Participant demographics, history of disordered eating, and sport/activity characteristics were also reported. Data were analyzed using Mann-Whitney U tests with α value of less than .05.
Athletes participating in high-impact sports (P = .03), vigorous physical activity for more than 5 d/wk (P = .037), and a body mass index (BMI) of 25 and greater (P = .05) demonstrated increased ICIQ UI-SF scores. No statistically significant differences were found with physical activity intensity, disordered eating, years of training, or volume of physical activity.
Stress urinary incontinence is highly prevalent in nulliparous female athletes, especially those with a BMI of 25 of greater, or who engage in high-impact and/or high-intensity physical activity for more than 5 days of the week. Athletes with a BMI of 25 and greater or those participating in exercise involving high impact and/or a high frequency of high-intensity activity should be screened for SUI. These athletes may be good candidates for prophylactic pelvic floor muscle training, which receives grade A evidence for the treatment of SUI.