The Northeastern Society of Plastic Surgeons

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Urinary incontinence among adolescent female athletes
Bridget Linehan Logan, PhD, Lynn Foster Johnson, MA, Eleni Zotos, BSN.
Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, NH, USA.

BACKGROUND: A collection of studies have demonstrated that approximately one third of female nulliparous athletes experience urinary incontinence during their athletic activities. Contributing factors of the incontinence that have thus far been the focus of study include type of sport, duration of athletic activity, use of hormonal contraception, and weight. There has, as yet, been a notable absence of several other factors which may influence incontinence, including bowel pattern, urinary habits, incontinence in other contexts. The purpose of this pilot study was to describe the urinary habits and frequency of incontinence among adolescent female athletes. A secondary purpose was to identify factors associated with incontinence. METHODS: To investigate these factors, a questionnaire was completed by 44 female high school athletes. Descriptive statistics were used, including means and percentages to answer the first purpose of our study. Where appropriate, t-tests and chi-square tests were employed to determine the statistical significance of the findings. The second research purpose was tested using correlations and multiple regression. RESULTS - There is an even higher rate of athletic incontinence (34.15%) among high school female athletes surveyed in this study than in previous studies. Incontinence occurs for athletes in other contexts, including laughter and activities of daily living (ADLs). The more seasons athletes are engaged in vigorous exercise, the higher the rate of incontinence both during athletics and during laughter: 57% of participants with athletic incontinence play four season of sport and 77% of participants with laughter incontinence play four seasons of athletics, while 100% of participants with ADL incontinence play four seasons. Bowel pattern is closely related to incontinence: 79% (15/19) of the respondents who have any type of incontinence have a firm bowel pattern (Bristol stool scale type 1, 2 or 3) CONCLUSIONS - Athletic incontinence is common among adolescent female athletes. Assessment of bowel pattern is an important part of assessment of any type of athletic incontinence. Athletes who compete four seasons of the year have higher rates of all types of incontinence (athletic, laughter and during activities of daily living) compared to athletes who compete during fewer seasons of the year. Avid participation in vigorous exercise may be a risk factor not only for athletic incontinence but also incontinence during laughter and ADLs.


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