Pelvic Floor Disorders: Triathletes at Higher Risk | Loyola Medicine
Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Loyola Study Finds Female Triathletes at Higher Risk for Pelvic Floor Disorders

MAYWOOD, IL – A study led by Loyola Medicine researchers found that female triathletes are at higher risk for pelvic floor disorders, among other health issues.
 
The study, published in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery, found that female triathletes suffered from a high rate of stress urinary and anal incontinence.
 
“We expected the high rates of urinary incontinence, but did not expect to find such high rates of anal incontinence,” said senior author, Colleen Fitzgerald, MD, MS. Dr. Fitzgerald is the medical director of the Chronic Pelvic Pain program and an associate professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
 
“These findings generate a new question as to address the mechanism of injury for why this is occurring, whether it is metabolic or digestive, or due to prolonged impacted on the pelvic floor from biking or other unexplained causes,” Dr. Fitzgerald said.
 
Researchers conducted an internet survey of 311 self-identified female triathletes. Results showed a significant prevalence of pelvic floor disorders, with urinary incontinences (37.4 percent) and anal incontinence (28.0 percent) being the most common.
 
Urgency urinary incontinence (16.0 percent) and pelvic organ prolapse (5.0 percent) were less common. Pelvic girdle pain was noted in 18 percent of these triathletes, but was not indicated as disabling or preventing exercise.
 
Nearly a quarter of respondents also screened positive for at least one arm of the female athlete triad, a condition characterized by decreased energy, menstrual irregularities and abnormal bone density from excessive exercise and inadequate nutrition.
 
Loyola researchers conducted a similar study on female athletes in 2014, focusing on runners. In that study, researchers found a similarly high percentage of women complained of urinary incontinence symptoms. The goal of this study was to expand on previous results, incorporating the low impact sport of swimming.
 
Along with Fitzgerald, co-authors on the study were Johnny Yi, MD, FACOG, then a urogynecology fellow at Loyola and now with Mayo Clinic Arizona, Sandi Tenfelde, PhD, RN, APN, Dina Tell, PhD, and Cynthia Brincat, MD, PhD, FACOG.
 
“Our goal of this study was not to deter triathletes from participating in their training,” Dr. Fitzgerald said. “Exercise in all forms can be healthy and should be encouraged. However, we would recommend that if women are bothered by these symptoms, they should seek medical care from a urogynecologist or female pelvic reconstructive surgery specialist.” 

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 92 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 129,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.