Our breast health research group has found that a lack of bras and breast education in female athletes can negatively affect their athletic performance.

The majority of female athletes in this study reported wanting more advice on bra design and fit. Some said they had never received bra advice or worn a bra before.

Their main problems are:
lack of bras and breast education
Difficulty putting on and adjusting bras
negative effect of bras on performance
sports weakness caused by breast movement
Several athletes wore free sports bras at events or provided by sponsors. These bras had mixed results and were often the wrong size. Many were wearing ill-fitting clothing that limited breast support. Athletes were poorly supplied, and one said the sports bras she was given were so small that she would need one for each breast.

Bra design was a common point of discussion among athletes. Manufacturers do not consider factors such as thermal comfort, aerodynamics or trackers and monitors when designing products. The Paralympic athletes involved in the project experienced problems with fitting and adjusting bras, which made them dependent on assistants during training and competition.

Breast-related physical weakness
A small number of athletes we spoke to reported serious athletic injuries due to their breasts. One athlete’s breasts prevented her from reaching her full range of motion. She used tape to support her breasts and wore a sports bra. Another athlete couldn’t find a bra that would support her breasts when throwing, and some bras broke after just a few uses.

In this study, the Breast Health Research Group collaborated with the English Institute of Sport and underwear manufacturer Clover Group on the SmartHER campaign to support Britain’s elite female athletes.

SmartHER campaign
The campaign aims to better understand female athletes, support their communication and increase their performance. Topics covered in this campaign are rarely considered in elite sport, including:

hormonal fluctuations in women
menstrual cycle
breast health
The project began with educational workshops for elite female athletes in the UK. Athletes were then invited to a 1-to-1 session to discuss specific breast and bra issues. A total of 41 athletes and assistants from 13 sports participated. About 15 percent of the women were Paralympic athletes.

Future research
By understanding these issues, our Breast Health Research team will work with a small number of athletes to provide breast support garments that can address the worst symptoms these special women experience. You can request to participate in future surveys or subscribe to the Research Group’s annual newsletter.

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