New research conducted by clinicians at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine reports that female triathletes are at greater risk for developing pelvic floor disorders, as well as other health issues. The study concluded that these athletes are at heightened risk for the female athlete triad (disordered eating, menstrual irregularities, and osteoporosis), as well as for pelvic floor disorders and pelvic girdle pain. Senior author of the report is Colleen Fitzgerald, MD, MS, director of the Chronic Pelvic Pain program at Loyola Medicine, and associate professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology. Dr. Fitzgerald is also a past faculty participant at the PAINWeek National Conference. “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 impact on the pelvic floor from biking or other unexplained causes,” Dr. Fitzgerald said. The findings appear in the journal Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery.
The researchers conducted an online survey of 311 women who self-identified as triathletes, using validated questionnaires including the Epidemiology of Prolapse and Incontinence Questionnaire, the Pelvic Girdle Questionnaire, and the female athlete triad questionnaire. Among the respondents there was a significant presence of pelvic floor disorders, including urinary and anal incontinences, as well as pelvic girdle pain and at least one component of the female athlete triad. Dr. Fitzgerald commented that “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.”
Read a news story about the study findings here.
The study abstract may be read here.