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Can Your Favourite Sport Be Damaging to Your Pelvic Floor?

By Miral Patel

Imagine athletes like Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova or Anna Kournikova.  Would you ever imagine that any of them suffer from pelvic floor dysfunctions?  US NCBI stats show that 41% of elite female athletes suffer from stress incontinence.   What is stress incontinence??  It’s leakage of urine or fecal matter with activities such as coughing, sneezing, jumping or running.  This usually occurs as a result of weak pelvic floor muscles.  How do such healthy, fit individuals suffer from weak pelvic floor muscles you might ask?  They play high impact sports!!

Below is a list of some common high impact sports:

  • Running
  • Tennis
  • Basketball
  • Soccer
  • Baseball
  • Gymnastics
  • Trampolining
  • Crossfit

All the sports listed above are considered high impact.  By high impact I mean sports that involve a lot of running, or landing from jumps or heavy lifting.   

Your pelvic floor is a bowl shaped group of muscles that sits inside the pelvis.  Its function is to support your internal organs (uterus, bladder, rectum, intestines, etc.), and to control your external sphincter muscles that keep you from leaking (aka continent).  They’re also involved in sexual activity and childbirth. When a woman frequently participates in high impact activities (any of the sports listed above) she is applying a downward pressure or force against her pelvic floor. 

With running or jumping you can imagine that your internal organs are constantly pounding against the pelvic floor which can lead to a dysfunction.   For activities such as heavy lifting, one usually strains or bears down to do the heavy lift and pushes down against the pelvic floor.    Doing these activities on a regular or frequent basis can most definitely have a negative impact to your pelvic floor.   

What’s worse is that in most cases women don’t realize their pelvic floor is dysfunctional until they become incontinent or have a prolapse that begins to bulge at the opening of the vagina.  I’m not saying it’s a terrible idea to play any of the sports listed above, but it’s important that you start with a good foundation: a strong and perfectly functioning core.

Begin with some exercises that help maintain or increase the strength and length of your pelvic floor.

So how do we do create strength and length??

Do your kegels!!!

Sounds simple right? Not quite.   Many women don’t quite know how to do their kegels right.  Remember we said strength AND length? Well many women, and especially common in the women doing high impact activities, have a very tight and weak pelvic floor. This will require some pelvic floor muscle release and relaxation exercises before beginning to strengthen.  In any case, it would be wise to have your pelvic floor assessed by a pelvic floor physiotherapist before beginning or resuming high impact activities.  The specialized physiotherapist at PhsyioExcellence can determine what exercises are appropriate for you and progress you through a thorough pelvic floor strengthening program appropriate for you and the sport you would like to participate in. 

If you’re an avid sports player and you’re concerned about your pelvic floor come see us at PhysioExcellence for a pelvic floor assessment!

Photo Copyright: boggy22 / 123RF Stock Photo

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