Injury Prevention Tip #4: Well fitting and appropriate clothing and equipment can play a huge part in preventing both overuse injuries and accidents. Its important to get the right sports-specific clothing, footwear and equipment, then maintain it well and replace it when necessary.
For all women a well fitting sports bra can reduce breast pain and discomfort during exercise - potentially removing a significant barrier to women taking part in physical activity.
Breasts move in 3 dimensions - up/down, side/side and forwards/backwards. There is no muscle tissue in breasts, the only supporting structures are skin and tiny ligaments running through the breast tissue. Good sports bras are designed to remove movement, and potential negative consequences of that movement, in all directions, reducing strain on breast tissue and therefore also the risk of ligament damage and long term breast sag.
Exercising in an unsupportive or no bra can lead to:
1) greater muscle activation in chest and shoulder muscles due to increased tension, possible giving rise to earlier onset of fatigue or changed movement patterns,
2) shorter stride length when running decreasing running economy and therefore performance
3) decreased breathing frequency, again impacting the onset of fatigue and reducing performance.
There are 2 main types of sports bra:
1) Compression bra: these compress breast tissue to the chest wall to reduce their movement and are generally made from one piece of elastic material. Often these are more suitable for smaller breasted women (Breast size below a D cup)
2) Encapsulation bra: these have individual cups which separate the breasts and aim to limit breast movement by individually lifting and holding each breast separately in place. Generally more suitable for larger breasted women (Breast size D cup or above)
To ensure a good fit it's important to try on a sports bra and mimic your sports activity to ensure its effective. Team sports or sports involving change of direction e.g. tennis need more side to side support, running is predominantly a vertical movement so needs a high impact sports bra to limit that movement.