More than a quarter of elite female GB athletes have said their ability to train and compete has been hampered by breast pain from ill-fitting bras.
The research by the English Institute of Sport (EIS) at the University of Portsmouth also found that three quarters of British female athletes had never been fitted for a sports bra.
Now the research centre has teamed up with the Clover Group to enable more than 100 Olympic and Paralympic athletes to be fitted with bespoke sports bras.
Dr Anita Biswas, co-lead of female athlete health and performance at the EIS, said: “As part of our support of female athletes, we wanted to consider all aspects of female health that could potentially impact on performance.
“Working with researchers at the University of Portsmouth, we have been fitting athletes with the right type of bra, because often athletes will be wearing the right size, but it might not be the right type of bra for their particular activity.”
Professor Joanna Wakefield-Scurr, who leads the Research Group in Breast Health at the University of Portsmouth, said: “I was surprised and worried that elite female athletes were experiencing breast pain and I’m glad that we are now working with them, because this is something that can almost always be fixed with a well fitted bra.
“One of our key objectives is to raise awareness in this area. Wearing appropriate support can improve your performance and technique, but in addition to that, if you don’t wear appropriate support, you are at risk of causing damage to the delicate supporting structure of the breast.
“Research also shows that wearing appropriate support can reduce or often eliminate breast pain.
“The final negative consequence that we talk about a lot is the psychological effect, so the fact that breast movement can be a barrier, it can change the type of activity that women will do, or the clothes they will wear so that their breast bounce doesn’t show.”
GB Hockey player Hannah Martin, who will be receiving one of the bras, said: “Everyone feeling comfortable out there on the pitch and in themselves is incredibly important, both as a female in general, but also as a female in sport.
“It will just allow us when we’re competing to not think about it, when you’re in those pressured environments, you don’t want to be thinking about anything else, so it will be really good to take your mind off it.
“Growing up, it isn’t really something that is talked about, you just find one and put it on, but it’s such a huge part of health and performance, so it should definitely be talked about more with education around what you need and what is right for you.”
Of the 70 women surveyed, nearly all (94%) wore a sports bra but most (75%) had never had a bra properly fitted.
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