More than a quarter of Great Britain elite female athletes experience breast pain from sports bras which affected training and being able to compete.
Of the 70 women surveyed by the English Institute of Sport (EIS), 94 per cent wore a sports bra, but the study also revealed that three quarters of athletes had never been properly fitted for one.
Following the research conducted by the EIS at the University of Portsmouth, more than 100 Team GB athletes will now have bespoke bras for the Tokyo Olympics, with hockey one of several teams and sports to benefit from the EIS innovation.
GB women’s star Hannah Martin, who will be one of the beneficiaries, said: “Everyone feeling comfortable out there on the pitch and in themselves is incredibly important, both as a female in general, but also as a female in sport.
“It will just allow us when we’re competing to not think about it, when you’re in those pressured environments, you don’t want to be thinking about anything else, so it will be really good to take your mind off it.
“Growing up, it isn’t really something that is talked about, you just find one and put it on, but it’s such a huge part of health and performance, so it should definitely be talked about more with education around what you need and what is right for you.”
Dr Anita Biswas, EIS co-lead of female athlete health and performance, said: “As part of our support of female athletes, we wanted to consider all aspects of female health that could potentially impact on performance.
“Working with researchers at the University of Portsmouth, we have been fitting athletes with the right type of bra, because often athletes will be wearing the right size, but it might not be the right type of bra for their particular activity.”
Professor Joanna Wakefield-Scurr, who heads the Research Group in Breast Health at the University of Portsmouth, said: “I was surprised and worried that elite female athletes were experiencing breast pain and I’m glad that we are now working with them, because this is something that can almost always be fixed with a well fitted bra.
“One of our key objectives is to raise awareness in this area. Wearing appropriate support can improve your performance and technique, but in addition to that, if you don’t wear appropriate support, you are at risk of causing damage to the delicate supporting structure of the breast.”