World’s best tennis players educated about breast health and correct sports bras at Miami Open

World’s best tennis players educated about breast health and correct sports bras at Miami Open
  • PublishedApril 14, 2024

When breast health researcher Deirdre McGhee worked one-on-one with 91 of the world’s top 140 female tennis players recently, she asked them to do something unusual.

They were told to run on a treadmill in front of a mirror and look at their breasts.

What they saw shocked them all.

“None of the athletes had ever looked at their breasts when they ran and they were surprised by how much their breasts moved and how unsupportive many of their bras were,” Dr McGhee said.

“They couldn’t believe they’d got to this level of their career in sport and it was the first time anyone had ever talked to them about their bra.”

Deirdre and Leslie stand either side of a sign for Women's Health, smiling at the camera.
Deirdre McGhee (right) was supported at the Miami Open by retired professional US tennis player Leslie Allen.(Supplied: Deirdre McGhee)

Dr McGhee, from Breast Research Australia at the University of Wollongong, said most players were wearing bras that were incorrectly fitted or offered very little support.

“There’s a lot of breast movement when a woman plays tennis — the more you run, jump and have forceful movements of your upper limbs, the more your breasts will move.

“That movement can bring your shoulders forward, which isn’t good for overuse injuries and the more you move, the more women experience breast pain.”

Putting pressure on sporting brands

Dr McGhee was at the Miami Open tennis tournament in the United States this year as part of the Women’s Tennis Association’s Women’s Health Taskforce.

She said some of the world’s biggest sports clothing companies that sponsored players had a responsibility to not only provide appropriate sports bras, but design outfits that could accommodate them.

“Unfortunately the bra isn’t even considered and most athletes and coaches don’t perceive a bra a piece of sporting equipment,” Dr McGhee said.

“These tennis uniforms they’re being sent are made and designed without considering a bra, and many of the companies they’re sponsored by actually make good sports bras, so they can access them.

“They need to think about the bra when they’re designing the tennis dress or shirt.”

She said if a bra was not factored into an outfit, a player would often not wear one at all.

Aryna Sabalenka hits a forehand during 2024 Australian Open final.
Deirdre McGhee says it is not just professional athletes, like Aryna Sabalenka, who can benefit from expert help.(AAP: James Ross)

Breast injuries possible in most sports

Dr McGhee has worked with women athletes in various football codes, as well as cricket.

A consistent theme is that women are not aware of the dangers of not wearing a correctly fitted, supportive sports bra.

“Every female athlete wears a sports bra and this is information that every female athlete needs to know because breast health topics extend to injuries and breast cancer awareness,” Dr McGhee said.

“There are a lot of sports where women are getting impacts to their breasts and women don’t report them, therefore we don’t monitor or treat them when we can.”

Advising International Olympic Committee

Through being involved in the taskforce, Dr McGhee has been invited to advise the International Olympic Committee.

Deirde stands next to a large sign with Ash Barty holding a trophy, she is pointing at the sign in a blue polo shirt.
Deirdre McGhee is also working with women who are returning to sport after having a child.(Supplied: Deirdre McGhee)

She will develop guidelines for women on returning to sport after having a child and to manage their training during pregnancy.

“They were surprised at how much their breasts change after they’ve had a baby and how their bra they wore before that pregnancy is unlikely to fit after.

“Women love their breasts … babies love women’s breasts, so we need to look after them.”


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