Are former female elite athletes more likely to experience urinary incontinence later in life than non-athletes?

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010 Feb;20(1):100-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2008.00871.x.


The aim of the present study was to investigate whether former female elite athletes are more likely to experience urinary incontinence (UI) later in life than non-athletes and to assess possible risk factors for UI in athletes. Three hundred and thirty-one former elite athletes (response rate 81%) and 640 controls replied to a postal questionnaire including validated questions on UI. While competing in sport, 10.9% and 2.7% of the former elite athletes reported stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and urge incontinence, respectively. Presently, 36.5% of the former elite athletes and 36.9% of the controls reported SUI. 9.1% and 9.4% reported urge incontinence. Among former elite athletes, those with two or three children were more likely than nulliparous women to have UI now. Also, among former athletes, UI was more common in women with vs those without UI while competing (odds ratio 8.57, 95% confidence interval: 3.55-20.71). Age, menopause and being regularly physically active now were not associated with UI in either group. Based on this study, the prevalence of UI does not seem to be higher in former athletes than in controls. However, the results indicate that UI early in life, as reported during elite sport, is a strong predictor of UI later in life.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Parity
  • Physical Endurance / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sports / physiology*
  • Urinary Incontinence / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult