Monthly Archives: October 2012

Some of the science behind breast biomechanics

Studies recently conducted in the UK have shown there to be a vast difference in movement of the breast unsupported (bare chested or an everyday bra) versus movement in a Sports Bra. I have recreated images to depict these different motions below.

breast biomechanics, unsupported breast motin

Unsupported, pendulum motion.

breast biomechanics, supported breast motion

Supported, butterfly motion.

When looking at the two images above you will see that an unsupported breast moves in one long continuous action. The momentum the breast gains during each long bounce results in a rapidly moving breast. It is the rate of this motion that is thought to cause damage to the breasts natural support structures, the skin and Coopers ligaments.

When comparing this to the motion detected in a supported breast you will note that the overall displacement is reduced both vertically and horizontally. Not only this, there are frequent changes in direction which results in less momentum being gained and a slower rate of displacement.

Two prominent Breast Health Researchers, Dr Joanna Scurr and Dr Jenny White and their teams have been instrumental in the findings many Sports Bra companies are now using to develop and test their products. These researchers have pushed the needs of many women into the once male dominated field of sports science and biomechanics.

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There’s more than just bounce to worry about

Most of us have heard (and experienced) the bounce factor while jogging… So it’d be fair to say we are all familiar with the concept that our breasts can leap in the vertical direction. This vertical displacement accounts for roughly 50% of our total breast movement. But, what most women are uninformed about is the TRI-planar motion that our chest actually moves in while exercising.

That is, that our boobs also actually move in a lateral (towards our arms) direction, as well as an anterior-posterior direction, which basically means they move inwards and outwards. These are the other two planes in which movement occurs.

So… Why is this information actually relevant? Different Sports Bras are built with different mechanisms of support to control each of the motions mentioned above. With the advanced technology and materials now used in the construction of Sports Bra’s, and with the right advice, there should be no reason that women experience breast discomfort during activity.

As a runner and general exercise enthusiast, who has previously suffered from exercise induced breast pain myself, its frustrating to see so many women opt out of activity all together because they feel unsupported when they exercise.

Relevant to the above, a mistake I see being made most often is women wearing a ‘crop top’ style ‘sports bra’ that only acts to compress the bust. This is only really effective in controlling one plane of motion, that being the inwards and outwards (anterior-posterior) motion. It’s generally not an effective mechanism of support for high impact activity, which it is commonly used for.

Hopefully by now you may be starting to realise that there is a whole world of science behind breast biomechanics. It has only been in the past 15 years that we have seen research undertaken on breast motion and the effect of sports bra’s on breast support and performance.

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Taking the plunge…

In bra terms to take the plunge may be considered daring but hardly worth the stress the ’plunge’ I recently decided to take has elicited. For the past two years I have spent every second of my spare time researching the biomechanics of the female breast and the effect that Sports Bras have on such motion, and subsequently our performance in sport. So, I have thrown all my eggs in one basket and recently resigned from a job i love, working for a company that have become a second family, in the name of pursuing my dream. You’ll have to watch this space for more detail. And there will be plenty more detail…

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