Athletes: the importance of switching on the pelvic floor- Clifton Hill Pilates & Rehab

CFA Bridge magazine  spoke to former Australian Netball Captain, Sharelle McMahon about incontinence amongst netballers and how she learned how to engage her pelvic floor.

An award-winning research reveals that 30 percent of women netballers experience urinary incontinence while playing Australian women’s most popular team sport. Nearly half of the women that had had babies leaked. They concluded that the prevalence of leakage while participating in netball was similar to other high impact sports and that screening for UI within netball clubs may assist symptomatic women to receive effective treatment.

Elite netballer, Sharelle McMahon remembers the day well. She was at a training session with the ANZ Championship team, the Melbourne Vixens when a physiotherapist used an external ultrasound to track how well the players were switching on their pelvic floor. “Only one of us in that group was actually activating our pelvic floor correctly, and that one wasn’t me,” said Sharelle. “The team’s physio was quite shocked. When we went through our training we were frequently asked to engage our core and our pelvic floor – that was part of the training program. So while that was a focus, we weren’t actually doing it very well.” The exercise was done about 10 years ago, and prompted Sharelle and her teammates to take action. She said the issues surrounding a weak pelvic floor do not necessarily start after having a child. The ultrasound exercise was used on her team about four years before she had her first child. Sharelle was referred to another physiotherapist, a pelvic floor specialist, who did an internal ultrasound to further identify how she was switching on her pelvic floor, and help her correctly engage the muscles.

Sharelle has participated in the pinnacle of the game, representing Australia in the Commonwealth Games between 1998 and 2010, winning gold in 1998 and 2002, and silver in 2006 and 2010. She played 118 games for Australia, won two World Championships, and was the Australian flag bearer for the opening ceremony of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. In 2016, she was inducted into the Australian Sport Hall of Fame. She currently works as a specialist coach for the Melbourne Vixens and commentates on the sport for Channel 9.

Elite athletes such as netballers, basketballers, gymnasts, trampolinists, tennis players and runners are at increased risk of developing pelvic floor problems. This is because of the constant and excessive downward pressure that these sports place on their pelvic floor.

Sharelle believes the prevalence of continence-issues for netballers is likely due to the sport’s high impact activity involving jumping and running. “And the people playing are mostly female, so rather than it being an issue necessarily specific to netball, it’s likely something happening more broadly and it just happens to be that netball by its nature is one of those activities that has those high impact movements and a high number of female players,” she said. Sharelle returned to elite level netball about three months after she had her first child, Xavier. “So I went back into high level training pretty quickly,” she said. “Particularly with training, I had some pain associated with my pelvic floor which presented as pelvic pain and back pain. So in that year after having Xavier, I had a lot of treatment to help relieve the symptoms but also to work on strengthening my pelvic floor in particular. I was wearing a pelvic band to give myself a bit more stability as well.”

Sharelle said her session with a pelvic floor specialist helped her to properly engage her pelvic floor while she was exercising. This resulted in her being able to strengthen her pelvic floor muscles and reduce her symptoms. “You can see it on the screen and get a sense of that’s the feeling when you’re switching it on properly,” she said. Sharelle said she thought it was sad that research showed many affected by continence-related issues just resort to wearing pads or stop playing netball altogether. “For me personally, going to see someone to help in that space was incredibly beneficial. You don’t have to live with the symptoms of a weak pelvic floor. There are people who can really assist in that space,” she said. “It’s something that a lot of people are dealing with and just dealing with the symptoms is not the answer – it can lead to some much worse issues down the track.

Addressing the cause can really help.” She advises anyone going through any continence-related issues, or any issues related to pelvic or back pain to begin with seeing a physiotherapist. “Get advice to ensure you’re switching on the pelvic floor muscles correctly,” she said.

Gill, N.; Jeffrey, S.; Lin, K-Y; Frawley, H The prevalence of urinary incontinence in adult netball players in South Australia. Australian & New Zealand Continence Journal . Summer 2017, Vol. 23 Issue 4, p104-105. 2p. 1 Chart.

Jen Langford taken from article by Bridge magazine | Autumn 2018 |


LEAP STUDY RESULTS -Physiotherapy benefits in Gluteal tendinopathy

Finally the results of the LEAP study we were involved in have been published. The study was investigating management of gluteal tendinopathy and it showed convincingly that physiotherapy, which includes education and exercises, is superior to cortisone and control not only at one year but even at the short time point at 8 weeks. The Global Rating of Change was the main outcome , but the Pain outcome for physiotherapy was less at 8 weeks. (just finished the 8 week treatment program ) than 52 weeks which suggested a drop-off of benefit on pain when active treatment stopped ie they have to keep it up !!!
Well done Henry who co-authored the paper published this week and thanks to our Physios involved for their help in what was a massive task.
We have attached the paper-you can check out the pretty cool infographics with the main findings.



Not all babies develop at the same rate, and sometimes they will not develop in the same way, or the way some would consider standard. There are a number of factors that may impact on a baby’s development, including significant illness, prematurity, difficulty with or a lack of tummy time practice, and a child’s motivation to get moving. There are various milestone dates which have been developed to provide assistance to parents and health professionals when assessing a child’s progress. An example of this type of resource can be found here

(click on the growth and development tab on the left hand side of the page).

If you have any concerns regarding the development of your child, a paediatric physiotherapist is well placed to assess your child, and to provide advice on how to improve and maximise their development.

Our paediatric physiotherapist Brendan has been assessing and treating babies with developmental issues for 23 years at the Royal Children’s Hospital and in private practice, and has the necessary experience to provide the appropriate advice for your child.

For all enquiries call us on 9486 1918


B App Sc (Physio) Grad Cert (Health Services Management) MBA

Brendan is an experienced paediatric Physiotherapist having spent over 23 years working at the Royal Children’s Hospital and privately treating children and adolescents with a range of conditions. He has presented at national and international conferences and is co-author and editor of a book on sporting choices for boys with Haemophilia.

Brendan’s particular expertise is paediatric musculoskeletal issues such as anterior knee pain and sporting injuries, however he also has many years experience treating children with persistent pain, haemophilia and juvenile arthritis. Other interests include advising families on developmental issues regarding concerns such as flat feet, knock-knees and torticollis/wry neck. Children and adolescents requiring rehabilitation following trauma, fractures and surgery would also benefit from Brendan’s expertise and also has experience with complex conditions such as scoliosis and burns management.



PhysioFIRST study and Powertrak training at Clifton Hill Physiotherapy/Clifton Hill Pilates & Rehab

On Friday some of our Physios met with Dr. Joanne Kemp, researcher from La Trobe University, for some additional training related to the PhysioFIRST research project that is running at Clifton Hill Physiotherapy.

The study compares the effects of two different Physiotherapy protocols for patients with femoro-acetabular impingement (i.e. hip pain) and recruitment is open now!

We also brushed up on the latest in the use of power track for hip pain, great technology that enables us to easily and accurately assess your muscle strength. Using power track we can track progress and accurately design the best exercise program for your condition.


Contact Dr Jo Kemp for further details regarding study participation and we will keep you up to date with the study outcomes.



The 2017 CHP/CHPR Masterchef competition is heaing up!

The stakes are high and the Master Chef competition is taken very seriously here at Clifton Hill Physiotherapy/Pilates and Rehab.

Paul is pictured tucking into Issy’s delicious Rose Petal-topped Persian Love Cake, on the same day Australia voted ‘yes’ to love.

Ali is chowing down on Dave’s luscious mousse ice creams.

The standard is high and food is judged by fellow staff.

The Grand Final is coming up next month with the leader board fighting for a spot of glory in the grand final and the tile of CHP/R 2017 Master Chef!

Ali Paul


Wanted: volunteers for shoulder rehabilitation study

With our ongoing commitment to best practice we are excited to be part of a study investigating shoulder rehabilitation.

Subacromial Pain Syndrome is a common shoulder condition that affects both men and women and is associated with
pain on the anterior and lateral aspect of the shoulder, affecting many activities of daily living, especially lifting the arm up and out to the side. Other terms used to describe this condition include subacromial
impingement, supraspinatus tendinopathy, bursitis, a partial tear of the rotator cuff or rotator cuff tendinopathy (or degeneration).

Although surgery is often performed to help the symptoms associated with this condition, current research suggests that a structured exercise program delivered by a Physiotherapist may, in many cases, reduce the need for this.

This study seeks to investigate which exercises are the most effective in the treatment of this type of shoulderdisorder, enabling a faster improvement in pain and function.

  • Do you havepain in your shoulder or upper arm?
  • Haveyou been told by your treating heath practitioner that you have sub-acromial pain syndrome.

Don’t forget, they may have used any of the terms listed above such as subacromial impingement, supraspinatus tendinopathy, bursitis, a rotator cuff tear or tendinopathy/tendinitis.

Study Aims:

Assess the effectiveness of three different structured shoulder rehabilitation programs for improving pain and function in people diagnosed withsubacromial pain syndrome/rotator cuff tendinopathy.


To be eligible for involvement in this research project you need to be:

  • Aged18-80 years
  • Experiencingpain in the shoulder/upper arm that does not also involve numbness or tingling in the arm or hand
  • Painon lifting the arm upwards or out to the side or when lying on the shoulder at
  • Noprevious trauma or surgery to the affected shoulder
  • If youhave had a diagnosis of osteoarthritis in the shoulder


If you feel that you are eligible to be involved please contact Rosie Purdue or Paul Jackson on 9486 1918.

Further Details:


The Pelvic Floor – it’s more than just kegels!

Women’s Health week is celebrated every year to promote and create further awareness around common issues affecting women.

This year I was delighted to be invited to speak at the Epworth Freemason’s on pelvic floor health to both staff and those suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction.    I covered a number of topics, including pelvic floor function and anatomy, pelvic floor appropriate exercise, and why pelvic floor health is not just all about pelvic floor strengthening exercise.

Something that we find very commonly in many women who have had some form of pelvic floor dysfunction or injury is that the muscles may not be working effectively.  A healthy muscle needs to be able to relax as effectively as it can contract, and the pelvic floor is no exception!

One of the most important things in pelvic floor rehabilitation is that we fully assess the pelvic floor function and retrain all of the components appropriately.  This may mean we need to teach the muscles how to relax first before we can strengthen them.  This is called down-training and there are a number of different techniques we can use to teach the muscles this skill.

Another important factor is to consider all of the other muscles that are involved in optimal pelvic floor strength.  These include; your lower back muscles, abdominal muscles, groin and glut muscles, and the diaphragm.  Did you know that even the way you breath may affect how the pelvic floor muscles function!  By looking at all the different components of a health functioning pelvic floor we are able to assess and address those contributing factors, often leading to a more successful outcome!

As you can see there are a large number of areas to investigate when it comes to pelvic floor dysfunction and this is why a thorough assessment with a specialised women’s health physiotherapist is of paramount importance!  So pop in for an assessment if this applies to you and get started on appropriate pelvic floor rehab!

B Physio Grad Cert (Pelvic Floor) image022

Clinical Pilates Instructor



Pain in Children and Adolescents

Pain in Children and Adolescents

Children are often seen in the Clifton Hill Physiotherapy clinic with complaints of pain in varied parts of their body – back, knees, ankles or feet are just some of the places children will present with pain. Often the examination will find a specific condition, or changes to strength and flexibility, due to growth or previous injury, that can be rectified with an exercise programme of strengthening and stretching activities.

However, this is not always the case, and we do see children who experience pain that is often felt in the absence of any tissue damage, or muscle weakness or tightness. Our improved knowledge of the way our brain works can provide us with an explanation for how a child can experience pain in the absence of any damage to the body’s tissues.

Factors that can influence a child’s pain include

Previous experiences of pain
Exposure to pain within the family or school environment
Fear of movement causing tissue damage
Other stresses at home or school including
Academic achievement
Performance expectations
The team at Clifton Hill Physiotherapy has extensive experience managing children’s pain, and identifying when the above factors might be contributing to your child’s pain. The assessment of the child’s musculoskeletal status, plus investigating any psychosocial issues that maybe present will allow us to make the best recommendation for your child. Our assessment will also include asking special questions that will identify if further tests are required. Often education regarding pain, including reassurance and de-threatening the child’s movement and activity, is enough to manage and resolve the pain. If the pain has been more persistent and the child has reduced their activity for an extended period, this needs to be in conjunction with an exercise programme that helps to gradually condition the body to normal activity.

Brendon Egan, Physiotherapist

About Brendan

Brendan is an experienced paediatric Physiotherapist having spent over sixteen years working at the Royal Children’s Hospital treating children and adolescents with a range of conditions. He has presented at national and international conferences and is co-author and editor of a book on sporting choices for boys with Haemophilia.

Brendan’s particular expertise is paediatric musculoskeletal issues with many years of experience treating children with persistent pain, haemophilia, juvenile arthritis, scoliosis and burns management. Other interests include advising families on developmental issues such as flat feet, knock knees and torticollis/wry neck. Children and adolescents requiring rehabilitation following trauma, fractures and surgery would also benefit from Brendan’s expertise.


Women’s health week tips from Rosie

Rosie Purdue, Clifton Hill Physiotherapy’s women’s health expert, gave an informative presentation today on women and exercise, toStrong_women celebrate women’s health week.
We want to send a special thank you to the women and lovely babes who joined us for the comprehensive talk and morning tea; and for asking great questions and sharing stories….keeping the sisterhood strong!
And remember:
  • Exercise for your body and mind
  • 30 mins moderate exercise most days
  • Keep your pelvic floor muscles strong
  • Safely exercise before, during and after pregnancy
  • See your specialist before returning to sport
  • If you’re concerned, seek help



It’s Women’s Health week

It’s Women’s Health week, so let’s celebrate Women, Exercise and Pregnancy during Sep 5-9

Clifton Hill Physiotherapy is teaming up with The Jean Hailles Foundation to promote women and their health during women’s health week.

Women are often told to exercise comfortably when they are pregnant. This is certainly true to a point; women should absolutely listen to their bodies, but the recommended guidelines are actually more precise than this. In fact, it is recommended that women do 30 mins of moderate intensity, safe exercise, most days a week.

Moderate exercise means you are breathing heavily, can hold a short conversation and are somewhat comfortable, but the exercise is becoming more challenging. 30 minutes does not have to be done all in one go either; you can break this up during the day. It is important to stay fit and healthy during your pregnancy for your baby’s health but also so that you are comfortable, remain active and give yourself the best chance for recovery.

Apart from the obvious postural and hormonal changes that the mother goes through, there are also significant changes to the heart, lungs, kidneys and gastrointestinal systems. One important change is that pregnant women produce a hormone called relaxin. Relaxin allows the ligaments in the body to stretch and this hormone is great because it allows your pelvis to adapt to the growing baby. Relaxin is in the bloodstream and therefore it is throughout the entire body, not just the pelvis. Consequently, your newfound flexibility may be counteracted by your muscles tightening and this will cause a different strain on your body.

The combination of all these changes means that the mother needs to be educated about how much and what type of exercise she should be doing. This is very important that the mother and baby stay safe, fit and healthy. These are some of the basic recommendations for pre and post-natal exercise:

First trimester: Correct pelvic floor exercises, proper technique for core exercises, fix any postural imbalances and continue exercising.

Second trimester: Correct pelvic floor exercises, no exercising on your back, no heavy lifting, no new exercise (except Pilates), prevent pelvic pain, maintain muscle strength, improve deep core strength.

Third trimester: Pelvic floor exercises, no exercising on your back or tummy, maintain fitness and strength.

Post-natal:  Whether you had a natural or caesarean delivery, the first 6 weeks is gentle. Enjoy being a mum and focus on walking, pelvic floor exercises and correct deep core exercises. It is best to get your tummy and pelvic floor muscles checked by a physio before returning to exercise. When your baby is 12 weeks old and you have been cleared by your health professional, you can slowly return to your normal exercise routine.

At Clifton Hill Physiotherapy, Pilates & Rehab we have expert Physiotherapists to safely guide your fitness and rehab through the ante natal to the post natal period, including pre-natal pilates and mums and bubs post-natal classes. Call 9486 1918 for more information.

To help celebrate Women’s Health week Clifton Hill Physiotherapy is hosting a FREE seminar to learn about the importance of exercise and pregnancy at our clinic, from 10am – 12pm, at 101-103 Queens Parade.

Spaces are strictly limited and RSVP by Tuesday 29 August is essential. If you’d like to attend email 

Seminar flyer information

Rosie Purdue

Women’s Health physiotherapist