The prevalence of pelvic floor dysfunctions among Israeli women runners - A pilot study

Amit Amar, Ilan Kurz, Rachel Kafri
Physical Therapy Department, Recanati School for Community Health Professions, Faculty of Health Sciences at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel


Background: Physical activity was found beneficial for physical and mental health; accordingly, long distance running has become increasingly popular over the years. Studies found an association between high-impact sport and higher pelvic floor dysfunctions, such as urinary incontinence, anal incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse, mostly in female athletes. However, recreational high-impact activity such as female recreational running is still controversial as a risk factor for pelvic floor dysfunctions.

Aims: (a) To examine types and prevalence of pelvic
floor dysfunctions in female recreational runners compared to non-runners. (b) To examine the relationship between pelvic floor dysfunctions and other factors (parity, age, body mass index, former knowledge and voluntary contraction ability of the pelvic floor muscles).

Methods: In a cross-sectional pilot study, 60 healthy women volunteered to answer questionnaires; 30 of them practiced running more than 20 KM per week, and 30 were non-runners. Pelvic floor dysfunctions were assessed using the short Pelvic Floor Distress Inventory (PFDI-20) and the Urgency, Severity and Impact Questionnaire (USIQ).

Results: Lower prevalence of pelvic organ prolapse and urge urinary incontinence was found in the runners group. There was no significant difference between the runners and the non-runners in either colorectal or anal dysfunctions. Prevalence of pelvic floor dysfunction among the non-runners was similar to the prevalence described in the literature. Older age and higher BMI were associated with higher prevalence of pelvic floor dysfunctions among the runners.

Conclusions: Runners had lower prevalence of pelvic floor dysfunctions. Yet, Future damage to the pelvic floor is possible in women practicing recreational running, due to continuous overload to the tissues. Further research is warranted for further examination of the subject in a probabilistic sample of the population.

Key words: pelvic floor dysfunction, incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, female athletes, recreational runners.

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