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Physiotherapy to manage urinary incontinence in athletic women; a feasibility study (The Positive Study)

Thursday 19th August 2021 (17:30-18:30)
Register by emailing Lianne.Nachmias@nottingham.ac.uk
Physiotherapy to manage urinary incontinence in athletic women; a feasibility study (The Positive Study)

Event poster for Physiotherapy to manage urinary incontinence in athletic women; a feasibility study (The Positive Study)

A public lecture by Dr Gillian Campbell as part of the 30 Years of Nursing celebrations


Urinary incontinence (UI) affects nearly half of all adult women in the UK. The prevalence in athletes is unusually high, reported as nearly twice that of sedentary women. Yet, incontinence can be a barrier to exercise for many women. There is robust evidence to support pelvic floor muscle training to manage urinary incontinence in the general population, but there is little research investigating the management of this condition in athletes. We report on a feasibility study with nested qualitative interviews to explore current practice in the primary care setting and the acceptability of conducting a definitive trial.


  • Health care professionals (HCP) in primary care interviewed to explore current practice for women presenting with UI.
  • Athletic women, recruited directly from gyms and sports clubs, offered up to seven sessions of tailored physiotherapy over a 6-month period. After completion participants were invited for interview regarding the experience


  • It is unusual for women to present with UI as their primary complaint, those interviewed were unaware of clearly defined local strategies regarding UI, pelvic floor muscle training was thought to be only relevant for younger women
  • Participants experienced symptoms for many years, only one had previously sought treatment. Direct recruitment from sporting venues was both feasible and acceptable to the women. Inclusion of an intimate examination of the pelvic floor muscle was regarded as acceptable and further considered an important part of the intervention. Attendance rates and completion of questionnaires to track progress was high. Provision of a smartphone app proved useful for motivation but did not monitor compliance effectively.


Our study lays the foundation for a future definitive trial. Athletic women valued assessment and treatment for urinary incontinence.


Dr Gillian Campbell has recently completed a Daphne Jackson Fellowship, mentored by Professor Avril Drummond, and working within the Research Rehabilitation team in the School of Health Sciences. Central to this she has conducted a feasibility study investigating physiotherapy to manage urinary incontinence in athletes.

Her first degree was in veterinary surgery from Glasgow University in 1986 and after working in veterinary practice for five years she retrained as a physiotherapist, qualifying from University College London in 1995. She was awarded her PhD by the School of Medicine and the Institute of Biomechanics, Nottingham in 2012, where she investigated strain in the patellar tendon using speckle tracking in ultrasound.

The Daphne Jackson Fellowship enabled her return to academia in 2019 and facilitated the combination of her clinical work and her research. She continues to work as a physiotherapist in a Derbyshire clinic where she specialises in pelvic health and in sports injuries. She is the current clinical editor of the peer reviewed specialist Journal of pelvic obstetric and gynaecological physiotherapy.

Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences

University of Nottingham
Medical School
Queen's Medical Centre
Nottingham, NG7 2UH

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