Why chest protection is key in contact sports !
You can kiss your boobs good bye ! Female athletes facing irreversible damage to breasts and no one is talking about it?
Which of us can honestly say they have never experienced bruising or pain on our bust during a contact sport? We ruck, block, tackle, stop, fall, punch, combat, and in the middle of all the chaos, no one is wondering what is happening to our boobs.
Women who practice contact sports are warriors (obviously) and it’s probably for this same reason that we rarely complain, and instead, choose to laugh off our injuries knowing that it was all a part of the risk we took on when we started. For many of us, these bruises are often worn like a badge of honor, a great proof of our bravery during combat.
We must admit though, even after all this time; have we really never thought to pose any further questions than that? Injury is injury and a bruise is a bruise right? When we created Révèle, our goal was to provide proper equipment and gear for women practicing contact sports. To achieve that goal, an essential component was understanding contact and the associated impact it has on our bodies. Making just another product is of no interest to us. So, we decided to determine what’s really going on when we take a hit (notably to our breast-area) and made it our mission to dive in, and assiduously research anything we could find on female morphology.
In the accumulation of our initial information were the work and research studies of Joanna Wakefield-Scurr, the Research Director at the Breast Health Institute at the University of Portsmouth. She is renown for her advancements uncovering sport and the link to it’s effects on breasts.
What we discovered. Two key elements to know about our breasts: Support and Protection
Discovered through a running/jumping study by the Breast Health Institute, breasts can move an average of 9cm in directional movement, with higher recordings upwards of 21cm. The results show that the breast moves independently to the torso in a butterfly-like formation during running, with 50% of this movement occurring in a vertical direction, 25% in a forwards/backwards direction, and 25% in a side to side direction.Basically, they are all over the place. It’s also been determined that breast pain occurs not only due to the independent movement of the breast tissue during exercise, but because the breast moves out of synchrony with the body. Even if we had a chance to assist in a significant evolution of the sports bra, there are still other means for improvement. What we mean to say is, if all of this is just from running, what happens if we throw combat into the mix?
In regards to protection, the soft products being proposed today are too basic and fail to protect the sensitive zones of our bust. Hard and rigid cups, even when seemingly comfortable, fail to adapt to the morphology of our breasts (normal, they are hard pieces of pre-molded plastic). Their functionality can often backfire, leading to bruising under edges of the cups where the force of impact is directly diffused onto skin tissue.
Instead of relying on approximate guesswork, we decided to take matters into our own hands. We hired the very same people (The Breast Health Institute) who executed the initial studies mentioned above, to launch the very first study on the impact of shocks experienced during MMA (mixed martial arts) on breasts. An official study of this caliber provides a reference for us to better understand the proper risks and effects of repeated impacts, intensity, bruises, and shocks in order to properly design improved protection for female athletes.
The Breast: more fragile than you’d think
To further express the reasons for our study, we have asked Joanna to break down breast health into a simple anatomy lesson for us:
The breasts are principally composed of fat and tendon, each breast weighing an average of 400g to 600g. This totals to an average weight of 800–12,000g! It’s important to remember that each woman has a different ratio of fat to tendon in her breasts, and that over a lifetime; breasts have natural tendencies to change in weight, cup size, and density (depending on your ratio level). They lay over the pectoral muscle and are maintained by The Coopers Ligaments. Don’t mistake yourselves! The pectoral muscles are in no way responsible for the support of the breasts, it is the unique responsibility of the Cooper’s ligaments.
These ligaments are fragile, vulnerable to impact, and easier than you would think to over-stretch, rip, or rupture. In fact, all damage to the Cooper ligaments is entirely irreversible and notably irreparable. Yep, that’s right. Modern medicine currently offers no solution or procedure that can reverse these damages. In short, if these ligaments are damaged, our boobs fall hard. There is nothing that can be done. Aside the chances of getting a decent boob job, you can kiss your boobs goodbye.
How about the women with smaller breasts? Well, it seems the damage to the Cooper’s ligaments refuses to discriminate based on cup size. All are welcome and equal here! Although weight of the breasts may have an affect on the extent of movements during exercise and sport, in terms of biomechanics, these fragile ligaments share the same risks of damage as women with a larger cup size.
And contact in the mix of all of this?
The preliminary results from our test study show that women practicing MMA receive an average of 3 high-intensity impacts directly to the breasts during each combat. This same genre of impact is present in other contact sports, being the basis behind our choice to test with MMA fighters. With a mixture of forceful contact consisting of grappling, rubbing, punching, scratching, and take downs, MMA impacts can be compared to that of rugby, boxing, judo, and other sports of this nature. Although the intensity of impacts are higher in MMA with its reputation for fast strikes and hard hits, it’s relativity to comparable sports is ultimately compensated by frequency and duration. In the midst of all of this action, it is no wonder why female athletes often take the brunt of impacts directly to their chest and breast area.
With the initial results from this research study, we can now confidently associate medical evidence with personal life experience as athletes here at Révèle. Additionally, the findings were combined with the numerous tests conducted by our team of engineers, allowing us to properly determine the important zones both fragile to impact and most frequented with impact.
For most contact sports, rigid protection is strictly forbidden (the reason being to avoid further damage to your opponent/opposing team). The current development of soft protection for women is insufficient and poorly adapted for our unique form. It is for this reason that women often prefer to continue their sport without bust protection. Who wants to be distracted by ill-fitting products with poor performance during an important match or tough training session?
Why we fight
Here at Révèle, we believe that female athletes deserve to practice their sport in optimal conditions, equipped with the necessary tools for their journey to aim higher and push further jointly avoiding the dangers and risks associated with their sport.
We are proposing solutions in order to effectively raise the bar for women in contact sports. That means working in close relationship with athletes, sports federations, and international sports associations so that these sports are recognized, valued, and supported. This is the core of our mission and the heart of what keeps us going every single day.