Objective: 1) To assess the prevalence of stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and urge urinary incontinence (UTI) in elite women athletes versus the general female population, and 2) to analyze the conditions of occurrence of urine loss in search of etiological clues in elite athletes. DECISION: An anonymous self-questionnaire was collected transversally from women aged 18 to 35 years. The exposed group was composed of elite female athletes; the non-exposed group was made up of women in the same age range accepting to answer the questionnaire.
Results: A total of 157 answers from elite athletes and 426 from control subjects were available for analysis. Urinary incontinence prevalence was 28% for athletes and 9.8% for control subjects (p = .001). There was no significant difference in the relative prevalence of SUI between the athletes and control subjects. Athletes reported urine loss more frequently during the second part of the training session (p < 0.0003), and the second part of competition (p < 0.05). Urinary incontinence prevalence was 9.87% in physically-active control subjects versus 9.84% in sedentary control subjects (NS). Even a small quantity of urine loss was felt to be embarrassing. Most incontinent women did not dare to speak of their condition to anybody.
Conclusions: There is a very high prevalence of urinary incontinence in women athletes. Detailed studies of the patho-physiology of this problem are necessary to formulate preventive recommendations.