Pelvic Floor Dysfunction in Female Athletes | News | Loyola Medicine
Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Loyola Launches Study on Pelvic Floor Dysfunction in Female Athletes

woman stretching

MAYWOOD, IL – A multidisciplinary team at Loyola Medicine is launching a clinical research study to determine the most prevalent factors impacting young women’s pelvic health. The study, which includes a team of researchers in Urogynecology, epidemiology and public health, urology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, sports medicine and biostatistics, will be investigating how sports participation, history of musculoskeletal injury, and other factors correlate with reduced pelvic health in young women.

According to a National Institutes of Health study in 2014, 25% of women experience symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction such as incontinence, voiding dysfunction, urgency and painful urination. True prevalence is thought to be higher due to underreporting related to social stigma around pelvic health. Loyola’s investigators will be exploring factors that put young women at risk for these symptoms including voiding and toileting behaviors, sports participation and musculoskeletal injury history, closeness of interpersonal relationships, and institutional factors affecting athletes including access to bathrooms and safety factors. They will be comparing the risk factors for reduced pelvic health in athletes and non-athletes.

Stacey Bennis, MD, the study’s principal investigator, is a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation and sports medicine at Loyola Medicine. She is part of the multidisciplinary Center for Female Sports Medicine where she focuses on restoring function, mobility and independence for her patients. Pelvic floor physical therapy, treatment for pain, devices and surgical interventions are among the multidisciplinary treatment options available to her patients.

Young women, particularly athletes, may be at higher risk for reduced pelvic health than was previously thought. Dr. Bennis says, “Up to 80 percent of high school and collegiate female athletes participating in high-impact sports experience urinary stress incontinence. They experience leakage of urine, often as a result of jumping and running. We want to improve quality of life for women across their lifespan and that starts with performing research specifically focusing on women to better understand why pelvic health problems occur.”

As a result of the study, Dr. Bennis and her team hope to launch an education program for patients and physicians, improve residency education curricula, influence public health and policy, improve patient and physician awareness of pelvic health and ultimately reduce the prevalence of pelvic floor dysfunction for women. She says, “This topic is stigmatized and historically physicians weren’t screening women for pain or problems in the pelvic floor.” As a specialist caring for women, she acknowledges the sensitivity patients feel in discussing pelvic health. She stresses the importance of collaborating with other female specialists to provide comprehensive care for women.

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.