We have had very little information regarding pelvic floor dysfunction in high performing athletes in weightlifting. Occasionally we see the viral video on social media of girls peeing on the platform during meets, the comment section full of people confused, grossed out, some standing up in solidarity and most laughing it up, chalking it up as normal. Luckily, more and more research is coming out giving us a better picture of if pelvic floor dysfunction is a problem, who it affects and how big of a problem it is in the sport of weightlifting.
In regards to research, a specific study that you can find here just recently hit the press that confirmed many hypotheses as well as shed new light on the topic. Today we will dig deep into a few questions revealed in the study to better understand this subject.
What is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (PFD) in weightlifters?
PFD can manifest itself is many different ways, but what was studied was the prevalence of urinary incontinence (UI), anal incontinence (AI) and pelvic organ prolapse. Urinary and anal incontinence are considered involuntary loss of urine or feces while pelvic organ prolapse refers to the lowering of our pelvic organs in our pelvis. Prolapse is classified by which organs have descended as well as by how much.
How common is PFD in weightlifters?
The study looked at 180 women and 204 male high level competitors. Out of these the women 50% reported having urinary incontinence, 80% having anal incontinence and 23% dealing with pelvic organ prolapse.
Out of the male group, 9% reported urinary incontinence during competition and 63% reported anal incontinence.
We know this isn’t just “women’s troubles” and that loss of urine and feces is very prevalent. These dysfunctions are directly proportionate to loss of power in a lift.
Why is PFD so common?
Weightlifting in general is a risk factor in itself for pelvic floor dysfunction in that an athlete is working to move heavy loads at “strenuous” levels over and over again. We know that chronic strenuous loads and activities that increase abdominal pressure over and over again can lead to PFD.
From this study we also learned there might be some factors associated with PFD other than just the sport itself. In women, increase in BMI was highly tied to increase in urinary incontinence and in men, increase in age as well as reports of straining to void with BMs was tied to a greater likelihood of anal incontinence.
The common issue.
The more glaring finding noted in this was in both gender groups was the lack of knowledge of WHY they were experiencing PFD as well as a lack of knowledge of HOW to train their pelvic floor efficiently. Almost half of women reported not knowing how to train their pelvic floor and close to 80% of men reported the same thing.
When participating in a sport like weightlifting that the likelihood of PFD is going to be much higher, it is imperative athletes are educated on the topic of pelvic floor dysfunction. Unwanted leakage of bodily fluid can have a huge negative effect on performance, can be difficult to understand and without information on how to mitigate your risk and to build strength of the pelvic floor, we are leaving ourselves open to unwanted heartache and potential worsening of symptoms overtime.
Do you lift weights?
Get to know your pelvic floor. What does it do? How does it work? What are signs of a healthy pelvic floor? How can I take care of it? How can I specifically train it to accommodate me and my sport the best.