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Female triathletes at risk for pelvic-floor disorders, other complications

MAYWOOD, Ill. (July 24, 2014) – Female triathletes are at risk for pelvic-floor disorders, decreased energy, menstrual irregularities and abnormal bone density, according to researchers at Loyola University Health System (LUHS). These data were presented today at the American Urogynecologic Society 2014 Scientific Meeting in Washington, D.C.

The study found that 1 in 3 female triathletes suffered from a pelvic-floor disorder such as urinary incontinence, bowel incontinence and pelvic-organ prolapse. Also, 1 in 4 had one component of the female athlete triad, a condition characterized by decreased energy, menstrual irregularities and abnormal bone density from excessive exercise and inadequate nutrition.

“There has been a surge in popularity of high-impact sports such as triathlons, but little has been known until now about the prevalence of pelvic health and certain other issues associated with endurance training and events,” said Colleen Fitzgerald, MD, study investigator and physiatrist, LUHS.

For this study researchers surveyed 311 women with a median age range of 35-44. These women were involved with triathlete groups and most (82 percent) were training for a triathlon at the time of the survey. On average, survey participants ran 3.7 days a week, biked 2.9 days a week and swam 2.4 days a week.

Of those who reported pelvic-floor-disorder symptoms, 16 percent had urgency urinary incontinence, 37.4 percent had stress urinary incontinence, 28 percent had bowel incontinence and 5 percent had pelvic-organ prolapse. Training mileage and intensity were not associated with pelvic-floor-disorder symptoms. Also, 22 percent of those surveyed screened positive for problematic eating habits, 24 percent had menstrual irregularities and 29 percent demonstrated abnormal bone strength.

“While both pelvic-floor disorders and the female athlete triad are prevalent in female triathletes, both are often ignored,” said Johnny Yi, MD, urogynecologist and study investigator. “Doctors should be aware of how common these conditions are in this group of athletes and treat patients appropriately to avoid long-term health consequences.”

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Media Relations

Nora Plunkett
Media Relations
(708) 216-6268
nplunkett@lumc.edu
Anne Dillon
Media Relations
(708) 216-8232
adillon@lumc.edu