Take Two for July 12, 2013

Do female athletes need a better sports bra?

UFC 157: Rousey v Carmouche

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Every year, many young girls enter the sports world hoping to be the next Serena Williams or Lindsay Vonn. They're also becoming competitors in sports that are traditionally played by men, like Mixed Martial Arts fighter Ronda Rousey.

But according to writer Amanda Hess, when women hit the court or the field, one thing is holding back their performance: A good sports bra, or lack thereof.

In her recent article for ESPN the Magazine's Body Issue, "You Can Only Hope to Contain Them", Hess says that the design of the sports bra has failed to keep up with all the activities women now participate in. 

"One of the issues is that the exercise science that is focused on breast movement is still in its infancy," said Hess on Take Two. "So the first studies that scientists were doing on these issues started in the 90s, which is pretty late considering how many women have been competing and just exercising for so many years."

A large number of female scientists is necessary to conduct a thorough study of breast movement. Many of the studies require women to run and do various movements on a treadmill while topless, which poses a unique challenge for scientists interested in this topic. 

"I think it is an issue of structural inequality in many fields, but its also an issue of access," said Hess. "I think one of the main issues we're seeing is girls dropping out of sports as adolescence comes on. So they will develop breasts, they'll find that they can't perform in the way that they used to, or maybe they don't have the right equipment, or they feel embarrassed so they drop out."

Hess says the real trick is to create a bra that can be comfortable for women with larger breasts. Sports bras compress and separate the breasts, but for a woman with a large chest, compression can be uncomfortable or even painful 

 


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