Summary of an article investigating urinary incontinence (urine leakage due to the loss of bladder control) in female Olympic weightlifters.
191 competitive female Olympic weightlifters aged on average 35.92±12 years with 6.31± 4.43 years of experience in strength training and 3.63±2.99 years of weightlifting experience (English-speaking countries: UK, USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand).
Online cross-sectional survey.
- Incontinence Severity Index
Female weightlifters and incontinence:
37% of female weightlifters had given birth (72 women):
- vaginal birth 76.4%
- cesarean birth 12.5%
- vaginal and cesarean births 11.1%
36.6% (70 women) reported experiencing urinary incontinence at some point in their life, and 31.9% (61 women) experienced incontinence within the last 3 months.
16.2% reported athletic incontinence (urinary incontinence that appears only during exercise):
- type 1 athletic incontinence (urinary incontinence that appears only during exercise and started after starting weightlifting) 8.4%
- type 2 athletic incontinence (urinary incontinence that appears only during exercise and started before starting weightlifting) 7.9%
57.1% experiences incontinence during high repetition sets (with half of them reporting that leakage was more likely to occur at the end of the set)
67.5% reported that incontinence only happened with heavy sets
3.7% reported leakage with the use of a belt
maximal effort during competition was less likely to provoke incontinence than maximal effort during training (16.8% versus 24.6%).
incontinence during the competition was less prevalent than during training (17.8% versus 25.7%).
24.3% of uncontinent weightlifters had a pelvic assessment, but 77.1% of incontinent weightlifters were confident (or very confident) in their ability to perform pelvic floor exercises.
factors related to the Incontinence Severity Index score:
- parity (going through labour / delivery / giving birth)
factors that DO NOT influence incontinence:
- years of participation in resistance or weightlifting training
- competition total
incontinence happens during:
- clean & jerk
practices used to prevent/minimise incontinence:
- taking antibiotics (for recurring urinary infections)
- yoga and Pilates
- emptying bladder before and/or during training
- consciously engage the pelvic floor before the lift
- focusing on breathing
- bracing core before the lift or trying to not over brace the core
- wearing 1 or 2 pads
- using or avoiding using tampons
- practicing pelvic floor exercises
- pelvic mobility, lower back and hip stretching, massage or release work
- strengthening deep muscles and core
- not over-tightening the belt
- wearing dark clothing
- reducing drinking
- keeping low body mass
- crossing legs while sneezing
Take home message
Wikander L, Kirshbaum MN, Waheed N, Gahreman DE. Urinary incontinence in competitive women weightlifters. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2021.