The Prevalence of Stress Urinary Incontinence in High School and College-Age Female Athletes in the Midwest: Implications for Education and Prevention

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Female athletes who participate in high-impact sports represent a group who may be at higher risk for urinary incontinence (UI) and may also lack knowledge of prevention measures. The purpose of the study was to identify the prevalence of stress incontinence (SUI) in young female athletes and assess the need for preventative UI education.


A survey of young adult female athletes in Central Illinois was conducted to identify the prevalence of SUI and to assess the need for preventative UI education.


550 surveys were sent to female athletes (through their schools) using a modified Bristol Female Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms Questionnaire. Those surveyed were between the ages of 14 and 21, and were from five high schools and two colleges in Central Illinois.


More than 25% who completed the survey had symptoms of SUI and/or urge UI while participating in high-impact sports. More than 15% of responders with incontinence reported a negative effect on their quality of life, impacting their social life or desire to continue participating in sports. Over 90% of those with SUI had never told anyone about their problem. Additionally, over 90% had never heard of pelvic muscle exercises (Kegels), yet the vast majority indicated a desire to learn measures for preventing UI.


The study indicated that female athletes who participate in high-impact sports are at risk for UI. There is an overwhelming lack of knowledge in young female athletes of preventative incontinence care and thus the opportunity for urologic nurses to meet the need for education in these young women.

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