In the realm of teen athletics, an issue that often goes under the radar is urinary incontinence. Many suffer from it disproportionately, yet feel too embarrassed to openly discuss it. As parents, understanding how to help teens who suffer from urinary incontinence becomes crucial. Here’s what you need to know.
Urinary incontinence or leaking is often portrayed in popular culture as a problem that women face after giving birth. But the data show a different picture. In 2021, researchers analyzed information from nine studies on urine incontinence in young female athletes. Results showed that around 49% of female teen athletes dealt with urine incontinence.
The idea that roughly half of these young players are urinating during games is disturbing enough. Even worse, 87 percent of them said they wouldn’t tell their coaches.
If more individuals were open to discussing it, the negative perception of leaking during physical activity could decrease, making it easier for people of all ages to seek assistance and support. Keep reading to find out why some athletes experience urine incontinence, how it affects their ability to play sports, and what you can do to help.
Urinary Incontinence in Adolescent Athletes: Potential Causes
Stress urine incontinence, or leaking during physical activity, can occur regardless of age. Most cases of incontinence in athletes can be traced back to a dysfunctional pelvic floor. The effects of increased intra-abdominal pressure and physical activity on the pelvic floor have been linked to the development of stress urine incontinence in athletes, according to a study published in the International Urogynecology Journal.
During exercise, your pelvic floor muscles create tension to keep your urethra closed and prevent urine leakage, ensuring that you stay dry. Your core system consists of your deep abdominal muscles, back muscles, and diaphragm (the muscle we use to breathe), but the pelvic floor is often neglected.
The health and integrity of your core contribute significantly to your overall physical well-being. When the pelvic floor isn’t functioning properly, it can’t fulfill its job, which is why it must be in tip-top shape for high-impact workouts.
Running, landing, and jumping are all high-impact activities that increase the likelihood of tears.
Effects for Sports Engagement
Taylor, a young woman, informed me that she began leaking during gymnastics practice when she was 16 years old, but she didn’t tell anyone about it until she was 21 and saw her doctor. Others have gone through the same things before. They suffered in silence, frightened that something was wrong with them, but several of them ultimately told their parents.
As a therapist specializing in pelvic floor dysfunction, I’ve witnessed firsthand the profound and subtle ways in which urine incontinence alters people’s daily routines. People quit going to the gym, stop jogging long distances, start wearing only black leggings, and avoid trampolines at all costs. If you’re constantly worrying about having to use the restroom, you can miss out on some of life’s more playful experiences.
As a physical therapist, I strive to help leaky individuals resume their favorite activities with the people they care about. My patients frequently express regret that they did not learn about the efficacy of pelvic floor physical therapy for incontinence earlier after their leaking has improved. Knowing how much time was wasted not participating in favorite sports and activities is saddening.
Thinking about how many teenagers base their extracurricular choices on what they know won’t cause them to wet their pants makes me unhappy in a similar way. For instance, 18-year-old Olivia told me, “The leakage didn’t change my sports activities in terms of participation, but I did have to wear a maxi pad all the time, and that was embarrassing.”
Urinary Incontinence in Teen Athletes: How to Help Them
Urinary incontinence, fortunately, is treatable. Starting a conversation and working on solutions with teenagers is the key to getting them to open up about the issue.
It’s not uncommon for teenage athletes to experience urinary leaks. Embarrassment makes them even more hesitant to bring it up in front of coaches and parents. You can make your child feel supported by asking them about their experiences openly and honestly. You can make them feel less alone by letting them know you’re there to help.
Advocate for a variety of exercises and overall strength training.
Young athletes are under more and more pressure to specialize as early as possible. Muscle groups may not obtain adequate activity or strength if they specialize in a single talent at a young age and engage in less variable movement.
During a growth spurt, bone size changes quite quickly. Muscles require rest and nourishment occasionally, too. Improving the fitness of the abdominal muscles, glutes, back muscles, and inner thigh muscles can significantly impact incontinence since the pelvic floor relies on strength and coordination.
Please consult a physical therapist who specializes in treating issues related to the pelvic floor.
Unless there is an infection or something wrong with the urine system, the most common reason why teenage athletes leak is that their pelvic floor muscles aren’t working together well. Strengthening and improving coordination throughout the body can be aided by working with a pelvic floor physical therapist.
Similar to how batters rely on their instructors for feedback on their swing, leaky buildings benefit from expert instruction. If you play hard enough, you won’t need to stop to urinate.
Teens experiencing urinary leakage may feel embarrassed and worried. Despite its common occurrence, it can make young people feel alienated, especially if they feel they have to give up their favorite sports to avoid getting wet. Athletes can gain confidence and resolve to move ahead when they can talk about their struggles, have their experiences validated, receive encouragement from pursuing their athletic goals through whole-body strength training, and seek expert guidance.
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