Your pelvic floor is vital in supporting your pelvic organs and for controlling your bladder and bowel. Yet 3 in 5 gymnasts suffer from urine leakage.
Read on to discover the relationship between gymnastics and the pelvic floor…
The physical demands of Gymnastics and other high impact sports challenge the ability of the pelvic floor.
Women’s health physiotherapist in UK, Emma Brockwell, notes that "Ground reaction force in high impact exercise is thought to be between 2.5 to 3 times your body weight. Your body needs to be able to manage this load."
Excess pressure on the pelvic floor muscles can lead to a variety of pelvic floor disorders including:
Loss of control of bowel and bladder
Decreased intimate sensation
As a result of constant downward pressure on the pelvic floor, elite female athletes may also experience:
Lower back and hip pain
High-impact sport (like gymnastics, running and jumping) that demands maximum effort, increases the risk factor for developing urinary incontinence with Stress urinary incontinence being the most common form of bladder weakness for elite athletes.
How can this be when these women are slim, super-fit and in peak condition, many training for hours every day?
Well, intense physical exertion exaggerates intra-abdominal pressure with a possible overload on the pelvic organs forcing them downwards. Prolonged exposure to pressure at this level can injure the supporting muscles of the pelvic organs.
In a recent study, 156 athletes with an average age of just 19.9 years responded to the questionnaire - 28% reported losing urine during their sporting activity.
Gymnastics and running were the sports that showed the highest urine loss. Case in point; back in 2005, gold-medal winning French Gymnast, Émilie Le Pennec leaked during a routine.
So, What Can be Done to Help?
By highlighting urinary incontinence problems among elite athletes, it helps to make these young women and their coaches aware of the problem and gain a greater understanding of their bodies.
Once they are aware of the tell-tale signs of a weak pelvic floor they can learn to strengthen where they need it most.
Physical education professionals and Sports Coaches are responsible for learning and teaching physical activities so, pelvic floor health should form part of their training to ensure that all future female athletes can be trained to support and strengthen their pelvic floors in the correct way, in order to counteract the strains that their chosen sport exerts upon their bodies.
How Can the Pelvic Floor be Protected?
In short, a strong pelvic floor muscle training programme should be in place for female gymnasts or runners of a professional level, as an elite athlete’s pelvic floor must be much stronger than non-athletes, in order to be able to counteract the excess downward pressure.
In executing a pelvic floor programme, we can ensure that the next generation of female elite athletes do not suffer through ignorance and embarrassment.
However, once the pelvic floor is extremely weakened, manual Kegels may not be an effective solution.
As a result, an electronic pelvic floor toner can effect a strong pelvic floor muscle contraction with the push of a button.
A Kegel exerciser such as the Kegel8 Ultra 20 Electronic Pelvic Floor Toner has physiotherapist-devised programmes to target a range of pelvic floor conditions. These programmes are clinically designed to stimulate both your slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibres.
By utilizing the Ultra 20 Electronic Pelvic Toner, future elite athletes and even past professionals, who may suffer with leakage now or stress urinary incontinence in their later years, can find relief.