England’s bra-baring football party puts the spotlight on breast health | TUSEN News


When they took to the field on Sunday to face the Germans in the Euro Cup final, England’s women’s national football team had not only the backing of the country, but also the support of specially designed sports bras chosen in consultation with scientists.

It might have remained a hidden secret weapon, but for Chloe Kelly’s now-iconic bra-giving celebration after scoring the winning goal, sparking a national headline in the newspapers and the airwaves and a huge sales boost for sports bras.

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“Cups and trophies: how the bra inspired players to a fitting final,” read a headline in The Guardian. “Bring home a sports bra now,” read another from The Times, a play about the English football song Three lions (It’s coming home).

Department store John Lewis reported a 130 percent increase in sports bra searches after the winning moment and a 15 percent increase in sports bra sales from the previous week.

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Perhaps the last time a sports bra had such a big moment in football was in 1999, when American player Brandi Chastain took off her jersey after scoring the winner of the World Cup final against China.

Chastain even tweeted to her English counterpart on Sunday, “I see you @ ChloeKelly well done.”

American soccer star Brandi Chastain tweeted to England forward Chloe Kelly after she celebrated her winning goal by ripping her shirt off – just as Chastain had done during the 1999 World Cup. (brandichastain/Twitter)

While much has been made of the iconic bra cheer moment, it has also put women’s breast health in the spotlight.

“I think it’s absolutely fantastic because we spend a lot of our time raising awareness of this important area of ​​women’s health,” said Joanna Wakefield-Scurr, a professor of body mechanics and head of the breast health research group at the University of Portsmouth.

The Wakefield-Scurr team consulted with the Lionesses ahead of the tournament to help them find the best bra for the job, after the Football Association learned of its previous work with Olympic athletes.

“What we found when we worked with the Olympic athletes was that sports bras can have a performance advantage,” she said.

Improve performance

Wakefield-Scurr has been studying how breasts affect athletic performance for 17 years. Part of the methodology involves athletes training braless to get a baseline of tissue movement, then repeating the activity with different sports bras to gauge how different models can potentially improve performance.

Prof Joanna Wakefield-Scurr’s breast health research group at the University of Portsmouth teamed up with the England women’s team to outfit them with bras designed to enhance their performance on the pitch. (TUSEN)

In the professor’s lab, athletes run on a braless treadmill, while sensors record the movement of tissue. Those exercises are then repeated in different sports bras, as researchers study how different bras create or limit movement and alter stress on the body.

Commercial sports bras have been around for a long time. A “jogging” bra was developed in 1977 by two New Jersey women who sewed two jockstraps together. But the importance of bras in football and the application of technology to make them better and more responsive to women’s needs is a recent development.

“[Sports bras] can improve your running technique, for example. They can improve your breathing rate, they can lower your heart rate so they can make you more efficient,” said Wakefield-Scurr. “We’ve seen reductions in muscle activity, so that can actually help reduce fatigue during sports activities.”

VIEW | Researchers investigate how breast support affects athletic performance:

This video shows how breast movements are recorded at the University of Portsmouth in the UK, where scientists are studying how breast support affects athletic performance.

The wrong sports bra, she said, can also make balance and muscle strain more challenging, altering body dynamics by repositioning breast tissue and weight, which can alter the player’s center of gravity and force them to work harder.

“There are many competing implications from a performance perspective in terms of how to reposition the breast tissue, where to place it, how to support it,” said Wakefield-Scurr.

The research team found that compression bras, which press breast tissue against the chest wall and are often worn by football players, may not be the best model for the sport.

“Compressing the breast tissue toward the chest wall, sort of merging the left and right breasts and minimizing movement…creates a heavier mass in the chest area,” Wakefield-Scurr said.

Instead, the research shows that bras that encapsulate each breast individually help athletes improve movement efficiency.

‘It’s such an advantage’

In an email to TUSEN News, the Football Association said it has prioritized work on the health and performance of female athletes and has a large number of projects to support England’s women’s team. It noted that each lioness went through individual sports bra assessments with the research group to find the best bra for their health, comfort and performance.

The union said it plans to continue using any new technology that will benefit players on and off the pitch.

On a field in East London, 21-year-old football veteran Olivia Worsfold, who leads women’s development for her club Leyton Orient, knows from experience how the wrong sports bra can affect a player.

Olivia Worsfold, who has been in the sport for 21 years, says it’s good to see the science being applied to women’s football. (Lauren Sproule/TUSEN)

“You look really uncomfortable. You end up in strange positions. You may not want to run. You know, if you have a bigger chest, it can get painful. [Some people start] shrink back,” she said. ‘And then you’re not performing, are you?’

Worsfold is pleased to see science being applied to women’s football.

“We’ve been using it for boots for years – [men’s star David] Beckham was famous, wasn’t he, because he had the extra detail in his boot. So why can’t we as women of science use it positively in our performance now? It’s such an advantage.”

VIEW | British football veteran Olivia Worsfold applauds the emphasis on science in sports bras:

British football veteran Olivia Worsfold says some women were previously embarrassed because they couldn’t get proper breast support and stopped exercising.

Worsfold said the new national emphasis on the science of sports bras could open doors for larger-breasted women, who have often struggled to find support and may have given up on team sports as a result.

“It’s an embarrassing situation, isn’t it? Like… ‘I can’t run. It’s awkward.’ So instead of trying to solve a problem, they just shy away from it,” she said.

“But now that it’s there, it’s no longer embarrassing. You know, women have breasts, so we have to make sure we take care of them just like we take care of the other part of our bodies,” Worsfold said.

Wakefield-Scurr is elated that Chloe Kelly’s victory celebration is not being sexualized, but is seen as empowering and has led to increased awareness about sports bra technology.

“We did a big study several years ago where we found that the breast was a barrier to exercise for 17 percent of women,” she said.

Wakefield-Scurr hopes that with the Lionesses putting sports bras in the spotlight, that could change for some women.


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