Why Do Female Athletes Pee Their Pants?

Why Do Female Athletes

It is never normal to pee your pants, yet studies have found that anywhere from 30-80% of female athletes experience some form of bladder leakage (urinary incontinence) during their sport. Bladder leakage can be divided into two different categories – urge and stress. Urge incontinence refers to the sudden and intense need to urinate without the ability to get to the bathroom in time. Stress incontinence is when bladder leakage occurs during a forceful activity such as running, jumping, coughing, laughing, or sneezing. Endurance athletes such as runners and cyclists have a higher chance of experiencing urge incontinence whereas athletes whose sports require high impact or frequent jumping (gymnasts, dancers, etc.) have higher chances of experiencing stress urinary incontinence.

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles located in the base of the pelvis. Together, these muscles must contract and relax on command for someone to go to the bathroom (or not go!) when they want to. It is usually assumed that if someone has bladder leakage, they have weakness in their pelvic floor muscles, however, in the case of athletes and bladder leakage, strength is usually not the issue. Instead, the problem comes from pelvic floor muscles that are too tight and overactive. These athletes are always exercising and on the go and the muscles never get a chance to relax. When a muscle is already tight at rest, it cannot further tighten when needed. This results in bladder leakage as the muscles are not able to do their job to support the bladder.

So what do we do about it? A pelvic floor physical therapist can assess your pelvic floor (and hips, abdomen, and low back) to determine the root cause of your bladder leakage. Based on your individual findings, we can then work on learning to let your muscles move through their full range of motion more efficiently to allow you to get back to playing your sport without fear of bladder leakage. 

In the meantime, there are things you can start to do now to reduce your bladder leakage. Finding time to relax between bouts of exercise and focusing on things like meditation and yoga have been found to be helpful in reducing pelvic floor tension. Certain postures, such as constantly sitting with your legs crossed, wearing high heels, and standing with your buttcheeks clenched can also contribute to pelvic floor tension and should therefore be avoided when possible.

Interested in seeing if pelvic floor PT can help you? Reach out to us at Resolve to set up a free consultation by calling or texting 845-769-7777 or going to our website at www.ResolveNY.com

Dr. Jaclyn McCullough, PT

Physical Therapist

Resolve Physical Therapy

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Resolve Physical Therapy helps youth and adult athletes in the Hudson Valley stay active and pain free. If you have a body, you’re an athlete. We help youth athletes, weekend warriors, Cross-Fitters, runners, complex cases, and busy people get back to doing what they love. This is not your typical physical therapy clinic.

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