Running is a highly accessible form of exercise with several proven musculoskeletal and cardiovascular benefits, and a mental health-improving bonus. Quality running clothing, including the right pair of shoes, is essential to reducing the risk of injury and improving running performance.
A well-designed women’s sports bra helps protect against breast pain caused by exercise, which can be a significant obstacle to playing sports. About 72% of women experience breast pain when running.
Previous research has shown that the improved breast support provided by sports bras not only affects breast movement, but can also have a positive impact on running performance. Better breast support has been associated with improved range of motion and reduced oxygen consumption.
The biomechanics that support better running performance with better breast support are not well understood. The researchers therefore wanted to further explore the impact that a good quality sports bra had on the biomechanics of running.
This study represents 1 of a series of studies on the topic of breast support and body biomechanics. Researchers wanted to find strategies that could help reduce exercise-induced breast pain for women.
Researchers studied the effect of breast support on knee joint stiffness during treadmill running. Knee joint stiffness is a biomechanical measure that indicates the resistance of the knee joint to movement with the application of force. Knee joint stiffness has been associated with running-related injuries, improved running performance, and reduced oxygen consumption.
12 amateur runners aged between 18 and 35 with B, C or D cups were fitted with 2 different sports bras: a low support bra and a high support bra. Participants in the control condition were instructed to perform the experiment shirtless. Each individual then completed running bouts for 3 minutes in each of 3 breast support conditions (low, high, control).
An instrumented treadmill and a 10-camera motion capture system were used for data collection. The participant’s movements were tracked using retroreflective markers applied to various parts of the body.
Visual3D was used to determine knee joint excursions, and custom software was used to determine knee joint stiffness and sinus displacements during the stance phase of running in each condition.
The experiment revealed that higher levels of breast support were linked to greater knee joint stiffness as a result of smaller joint excursions. Compared with the control, conditions of low as well as high support were linked to a 2% and 5% increase in knee joint stiffness.
Overall, considering these results and those of previous research, a woman’s running performance can be improved by 7% by wearing a high support sports bra.
The findings reveal that poor breast support not only affects breast movement, but that compensations occur throughout the body. These compensations can lead to an increased risk of injury, reduced running performance, and even chronic pain that includes chest and back pain.
There has been limited progress in bra design over the past 50 years. These results, together with previous research, demonstrate that sports bras should be considered not only as clothing, but also as sports equipment that can reduce the risk of injury and improve performance.
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