Secret prop: Did prescription bras help the Lionesses to Euro 2022 glory? | uk news

It may go down as one of the most iconic images in English sporting history: Chloe Kelly twirling her England jersey over her head as she runs down the pitch in a white Nike sports bra.

But if those cups could talk, they could claim a piece of the Lionesses’ victory for themselves.

Ahead of the European Championship, breast biomechanics experts provided England players with custom bra prescriptions to improve their comfort and ensure they received proper support. According to their latest data, the bras may have also improved the athletic performance of female players.

“The evidence suggests that sports bras have performance, comfort and health benefits, which is why I’d say they’re just as important for women who exercise as they are for trainers,” said Professor Joanna Wakefield-Scurr of the University of Portsmouth, who directed the project.

In the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2021, Wakefield-Scurr and colleagues provided similar recipes to 112 British athletes, in collaboration with the English Institute of Sport (EIS). Before her intervention, most athletes wore loose, ill-fitting bras that offered limited support, and many reported breast discomfort or pain. Four weeks later, 87% of the athletes reported benefiting from the prescriptions, with 17% saying they had benefited. improved their athletic performance.

“We were thrilled because it meant the athletes had noticed a difference in their performance on the field, court or wherever, and that difference was the result of changing their bra,” said Wakefield-Scurr.

Sports bras generally fall into one of two categories. There are compression bras, which help reduce the movement of the breasts by flattening them against the chest, and encapsulation bras, which support each breast in individual cups.

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“Crop top-style compression sports bras are very common in soccer,” Wakefield-Scurr said. “They can be reasonably effective for smaller-breasted athletes, but there are also some hybrid bras that look like a crop top but contain a bit more support, which is what Chloe [Kelly] was wearing. It looks like a crop top from the front, but it has more structured support inside.”

This support is important. Previous research has suggested that wearing an ill-fitting bra can create multiple problems, from breast pain and sagging tissue to skin chafing. Running in a bra that doesn’t provide enough support was also found to shorten women’s strides by up to 4cm, which could add an extra mile over the duration of a marathon.

“Some of our research has also shown reductions in upper body muscle activity as a result of wearing a well-fitting bra, meaning you could potentially last a bit longer into your training session before you fatigued.” Wakefield-Scurr said. . “If you’re working out and your breasts are moving a lot, you’re essentially working your upper body harder to try and stop that movement.”

Ahead of the UEFA European Women’s Championship, Wakefield-Scurr provided general breast and bra education to the Lionesses, followed by individual sessions. “We looked at her bra needs and any issues they had with her sports bras, and then prescribed sports bras for them, including the sports bra we saw Chloe show everyone,” she said.

“They were off-the-shelf bras, but we found that players really appreciated the information on how to fit them, what styles would work best for them. There are some really good products out there that can work for elite athletes, but it’s about helping them navigate the market.”

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Dr Pippa Bennett, acting director of medical services at the English Institute of Sport and the Football Association’s medical director for the women’s professional game, said: “While the EIS has not worked directly with the Lionesses, it is great to see that The FA has – like the EIS – prioritized work on the health of female athletes, including bra fitting.

In addition to inspiring more women to play soccer, Kelly, who has said she will frame her bra, may have inadvertently sparked a boom in sports bra purchases. John Lewis said sales jumped 140% over the weekend, while Google searches for “Nike sports bra” jumped almost tenfold after Saturday’s game.

That’s not bad, Wakefield-Scurr said. “What we tend to see with sports bras is that they can offer better comfort, and they also probably have a little more research and development behind them because some of the big sportswear brands have put a lot of money into developing them. I think the general public can get real benefits from wearing them and they can be worn all day.”

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How to choose a supportive sports bra

The best bra is one that fits you well, but because women’s breasts vary so much in size, shape, and composition, what works for one woman may not work for another. The same goes for sports bras.

Sheer compression bras are made from stretchy material that flattens the breasts against the chest to minimize bouncing. “The challenge is that breast tissue cannot be compressed. It doesn’t get smaller, the bra just repositions it somewhere else,” Wakefield-Scurr said. “To address that, compression bras need to have quite a bit of stretch, which tends to make them quite stretchy.”

While they may be fine for small-breasted women doing low-impact activities, Wakefield-Scurr generally doesn’t recommend them for women who exercise. Encapsulated or hybrid bras are a better option, because they contain cups that support each breast. But it may not be obvious what kind of bra you’re looking at.

Wakefield-Scurr recommends turning the bra inside out to make it look better: “From the outside, you often don’t notice [if it’s a hybrid bra]but if you flip it over, you can see the structure, whether it’s a molded cup that has a shape, or seams where multiple panels have been sewn together to create a 3D shape.”

Both types can be equally effective, but some women prefer the thickness of a molded cup. Whichever you choose, make sure her bra doesn’t restrict her breathing, the cup fabric is smooth and wrinkle-free, and the breast tissue doesn’t leak. Another tip is to try jumping around the locker room and swinging your arms. If you experience pain or discomfort, try a different bra.