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Is Bladder Leakage Really a Problem for Athletes?



Most of us would agree that core strength is important in any athletic activity like lifting, sprinting, throwing, cycling, etc. The core builds the foundation for strength, endurance, and technique.


The core is made up of 4 components:


  • Abdominal walls (wrapping all the way around the body)

  • Spine

  • Diaphragm

  • Pelvic Floor


These components work together to support posture, stability, breathing, coordination, and power, when in motion.


The demands of an athlete’s lifestyle require a rigorous focus on strength and performance which can sometimes lead to overtraining, inadequate recovery, stress, and poor biomechanics.


Many athletes monitor and prioritize recovery for the major muscle groups they need in their activity or sport. But the pelvic floor is like the forgotten middle child even though it is crucial to the makeup of a healthy core. Without proper training, performance suffers and injuries increase.


Is Bladder Leakage Normal for Athletes?


Let’s cut to the chase. If you are a high-level athlete, and you experience urinary leakage or pelvic pain, there is likely dysfunction within your pelvic floor. These are not symptoms to be ignored, as pelvic floor dysfunction puts your core at a disadvantage.


You might be thinking…

I’m an athlete but I’ve never really thought about my pelvic floor…


What is the role of the pelvic floor when I’m running, lifting, training, or playing my sport? It sort of just sits there, right?


Nope! It’s actually doing so much more than we even realize. Let’s dive in.


Athletic Performance and the Pelvic Floor


Your Pelvic Floor…


  1. Manages intra-abdominal pressure changes during impact activities 1.


Imagine you are jumping rope. Every time your feet hit the ground your pelvic floor activates. The muscles contract and relax reflexively - like an inner trampoline- to keep these vital organs in place, managing the stress on the bladder and other organs while managing pressure within the abdomen.


  1. Improves lumbopelvic stability which increases coordination for powerful movements 1.


Consider a baseball pitcher's throw. The arm is important but the power and coordination stem from the athlete’s core. The pitcher “winds up”, twisting through the core allowing them to stretch the body like a rubber band. This action depends on the mobility of the hips and torso.


  1. Improves core stability which enables you to change directions suddenly 1.


The core is an anticipatory muscle group, meaning it contracts before you move, twist, pivot, or lift something. For it to contract properly, the breath, abdominals, and pelvic floor need to be working in sync.


  1. Enhances your breathing by optimizing the connection with the diaphragm 1.


There are many different ways to breathe. Using the diaphragm can improve stability, strength, and endurance. When an athlete understands their diaphragm and pelvic floor, they can alter their breathing pattern based on the task. For example, lifting versus running require different breath strategies.


  1. Reduces your risk for injury 1.


Research has found an interesting connection for female athletes with an imbalance between super strong hip muscles and weak core muscles. The hip muscles try to overcompensate for the core’s weakness leading to increased low back and knee injuries 1. A stabilized pelvic floor can release pressure in the abdomen and assist the core during large powerful movements to reduce your risk of injury.


I Just Need a Stronger Pelvic Floor, Right?



Because pelvic floor strength is so important there is a great temptation to assume the issue is “just weakness.” However, we typically see far more athletes that have the opposite problem.


A “hypertonic” or tight pelvic floor is far more common than you think. If these muscles have difficulty relaxing, they are not strong and are not activating properly when you use the core.


Warning Signs of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction 2

  • Bladder leakage with exercise

  • Pain or pressure in your pelvic area, lower back, or hips

  • Pain during a bowel movement or while urinating

  • Frequent Urination and difficulty emptying the bladder

  • Constipation

  • Pain during sex, using tampons, or Gyno exams

  • Erectile dysfunction or pain with erection/ ejaculation


It is important to take note of these warning signs. Disregarding pain in your body can have an adverse effect on your pelvic floor health.


Physical Therapy Can Help Athletes with Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Do these warning signs ring a bell?

If you suspect you may be suffering from a hypertonic floor there are solutions. We urge you to consider a Physical Therapist who knows how the body works together as a whole.

Peak Pelvic Health is here to help you restore balance in your body. We train you on pelvic floor awareness for better muscle activation and recovery. And we implement evidence-based, proven methods of physical therapy to get you performing at your best.

Restore your pelvic floor and get back in the game by Booking a FREE consultation today!

Resources

  1. https://www.wdhospital.org/wdh/services-and-specialties/orthopedic-care/blog/want-improve-your-sport-performance-train-your-pelvic-floor

  2. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22870-hypertonic-pelvic-floor#:~:text=In%20hypertonic%20pelvic%20floor%2C%20your,if%20you're%20experiencing%20symptoms

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