Screening for pelvic floor symptoms in exercising women: a survey of 636 health and exercise professionals

Dakic et al, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 26 (2023) 80–86



This study aimed to establish health and exercise professionals’ (i) current practice of screening for pelvic floor (PF) symptoms in women within sports/exercise settings (ii) between-professional group differences in screening practice (iii) confidence and attitudes towards screening for PF symptoms and (iv) barrier/enablers towards engagement in future screening practice.


Observational, cross-sectional survey.


Australian health and exercise professionals (n = 636) working with exercising women participated in a purpose-designed and piloted, online survey about PF symptom screening in professional practice. Data were analysed descriptively and groups compared using Chi-square/Kruskal-Wallis tests.


Survey respondents included physiotherapists (39%), personal trainers/fitness instructors (38%) and exercise physiologists (12%), with a mean of 12 years of practice (SD: 9.7, range: 0–46). One in two participants never screened women for PF symptoms; 23% screened when indicated. Pregnant/recently post-natal women (44%) were more commonly screened for PF symptoms than younger women (18–25 years:28%) and those competing in high-impact sports (32%). Reasons for not screening included waiting for patients to disclose symptoms (41%) and an absence of PF questions on screening tools (37%). Most participants were willing to screen PF symptoms but cited a lack of knowledge, training and confidence as barriers.


Screening for PF symptoms in exercising women is not common practice, especially in at-risk groups such as young, high-impact athletes. Including PF questions in existing pre-exercise questionnaires and providing professional development to improve knowledge of indications for screening and evidence-based management options may facilitate early symptom identification and prevent secondary exercise cessation.