Objective: To determine the prevalence of the symptom of urinary incontinence during athletic endeavors among a group of nulliparous, elite college varsity female athletes.
Methods: All women currently participating in varsity athletics at a large state university were asked to fill out a questionnaire about the occurrence of urinary incontinence while participating in their sport and during activities of daily life. One hundred forty-four of 156 eligible women (92%) responded.
Results: The mean age was 19.9 years, and all women were nulliparous. Overall, 40 athletes (28%) reported urine loss while participating in their sport. The proportions in different sports were: gymnastics 67%, basketball 66%, tennis 50%, field hockey 42%, track 29%, swimming 10%, volleyball 9%, softball 6%, and golf 0%. Two-thirds of the women who noted urine loss during athletics were incontinent more often than rarely. There were no statistically significant relations between incontinence and amenorrhea, weight, hormonal therapy, or duration of athletic activity. Activities most likely to provoke incontinence included jumping, high-impact landings, and running. Forty percent and 17% of the women first noted incontinence during their sport while in high school and junior high school, respectively.
Conclusions: Incontinence during physical stresses is common in young, highly fit, nulliparous women. This suggests that there is a continence threshold which, when exceeded, can result in urine loss, even in the absence of known risk factors for incontinence.