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Innovative sports bras aim to boost health and performance

08 March 2021

The English Institute of Sport (EIS), University of Portsmouth and Clover Global have offered UK athletes the chance to be fitted with bespoke sports bras developed by Clover using innovative technology with the aim of improving both health and performance.

Following an initial survey*, which discovered that 75% of athletes had never been fitted for a sports bra and 26% reported that breast pain affected their ability to give 100% in training or competition, fittings were carried out for athletes across a range of sports.

Senior Sports Physician and Co-Lead of Female Athlete Health at the EIS Dr Anita Biswas 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.”

More than 100 athletes from 15 different sports have been fitted for their new bras, while also being given expert advice and guidance on breast health as part of the process.

Head of the Research Group in Breast Health at the University of Portsmouth Professor Joanna Wakefield-Scurr explained that raising awareness and improving education was an important part of the project.

“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.”

The sports bra project is part of the EIS SmartHER campaign which seeks to further understand female athlete health and performance. The campaign, which launched in 2019, is a wide-ranging approach to female athlete health, aimed at being smarter in how female athletes are supported from a performance perspective as well as general health and wellbeing.

Dr Anita Biswas said: “Sports bras are one of many things that we’re doing to try and aid performance and the first thing we’ll typically look at will be results and sporting performance, but probably the biggest feedback for us will be how the athletes felt and whether they found their bras comfortable. If their comfort or breast pain is no longer a consideration for them, we’d consider that a win.”

GB Hockey player Hannah Martin, who is one of the athletes who will be receiving a bra, agreed: “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 it 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 and that education around what you need and what is right for you.”

*70 elite athletes were surveyed by the University of Portsmouth and the EIS after voluntarily taking part in this project.