Urinary incontinence in female athletes: a systematic review

Int Urogynecol J. 2018 Dec;29(12):1757-1763. doi: 10.1007/s00192-018-3629-z. Epub 2018 Mar 19.


Introduction and hypothesis: People are increasingly aware of healthy lifestyles. Extenuating practice can injure the pelvic floor. Urinary incontinence (UI) is a prevalent condition in women whether they exercise professionally or not. The most common symptom is stress UI. It is reported in a large variety of sports and may interfere with everyday life or training, leading athletes to change or compromise their performance or risk compromising it. We aimed to assess the prevalence of UI in female athletes and to determine whether the type of sport might also influence UI.

Methods: A systematic review of the literature was performed by searching PubMed, the Cochrane Library, and LILACS up to 23 January 2017. The search strategy included the keywords pelvic floor disorders, urinary incontinence, athletes, and sports. The inclusion criterion was studies of women who performed any kind of sport with a prevalence of UI. The subjects were female, with no restriction for age, sport modality, or frequency of training. The outcome was prevalence of UI.

Results: The search identified 385 studies, 22 of which met the methodologic criteria for complete analysis. In this review, 7507 women aged 12 to 69 years were included. Only five studies compared physically active women to controls. Every study included high or moderate impact activities involving jumping, fast running, and rotational movements. In total, 17 sport modalities were analyzed. The prevalence of UI varied from 5.56% in low-impact activity to 80% in trampolining. In athletes, the prevalence of incontinence ranged from 10.88% to 80%, showing that the amount of training influences UI symptoms. High-impact activities showed a 1.9-fold prevalence over medium-impact activities and 4,59-fold prevalence over impact activities. Factors such as hormone use, smoking, or menopausal status could not be assessed since they were not detailed in most of the studies.

Conclusion: These data suggest that sports practice increases the prevalence of UI and that the type of activity performed by women also has a bearing on the disorder.

Keywords: Athletes and sports; Pelvic floor disorders; Urinary incontinence.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletes*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Sports / statistics & numerical data
  • Urinary Incontinence, Stress / epidemiology*