In a historically male-dominated sport like rugby, it’s no surprise that breast health isn’t a regular topic of conversation.
- Up to half of top athletes wear bras that do not provide adequate support
- Sixty-six percent of the total female population are unsuitable for a bra
- A quarter of athletes admitted taking medication to relieve chest pain and discomfort while exercising
Liz Patu has played for Australia since 2009 and is even the Wallaroos captain, but admits that finding a supportive sports bra wasn’t something she or her teammates thought about a lot.
“It’s only when you wake up the next day and are a little sore … and then you find bruises that you thought you would never find anywhere,” Ms. Patu said.
She said it was probably something they should all have considered.
“Especially in the sport we play, you know that we meet on the left, right and in the middle.”
Associate Professor Deidre McGhee has spent the past 20 years researching breast health and protection. (
Delivered: Justin Huntsdale
The lack of attention to the subject came as no surprise to Associate Professor Deirdre McGhee, who studied breast health and protection for 20 years.
“Women are not good at putting on a bra properly, and most women choose to adjust themselves,” said Dr. McGhee.
“Over 50 percent of top athletes wear bras that either don’t give them enough support or don’t fit them properly.”
Dr. McGhee said she feared these statistics could be as high as 66 percent in the general population of women who exercise regularly.
“With the step to buy bras online there are even more mistakes because of them [women] are trying to work it out from an online measurement system that is fundamentally flawed, “she said.
Alisi Qalo-Wilson says rugby is a male dominated sport that has never had these problems. (
ABC News: Brittney Kleyn
Alisi Qalo-Wilson also plays women’s rugby at club level and trains young talent in Queensland.
“I’ve played with a lot of women who wear two bras to play, which is just ridiculous and still doesn’t give them the protection or support they need,” she said.
“This is a male dominated sport that they have never had to worry about before.”
Assess it as an international problem
The English Institute of Sport (EIS) recently conducted a study with the University of Portsmouth and found that 26 percent of elite athletes have chest pain that affects their performance.
The same percentage had taken medication to relieve the symptoms.
Terrifyingly, three quarters of athletes were never really suitable for a sports bra.
EIS has worked to provide more than 100 women on Team Great Britain with bespoke bras for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
Associate Professor McGhee has partnered with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) to optimize information for women. (
Delivered: Justin Huntsdale
This contingent included the women’s ice hockey team, which took home a bronze medal.
“Just as it is more ideal for your feet to be supported in good shoes, your breasts should be supported in a good bra,” said Dr. McGhee.
New app to help athletes find the perfect fit
Dr. McGhee has partnered with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) to optimize information for women, whether they are professional athletes or just exercise regularly to keep themselves fit.
“That includes breast support and bra fit, treating breast injuries in contact sports, and then a breast cancer awareness component that every woman needs to know,” she said.
“This is a neglected area of women’s health.”
Ms. Qalo-Wilson has also started wearing what is known as breast armor to protect herself while playing.
“It’s a bit like a cup, you can just stick it in any bra you own,” she said.
The AIS app allows users to save information such as age group, bra size and details of the bra for future use.
The information is also used to improve domestic breast health research.
The app will be launched shortly after the Tokyo Paralympic Games.