The troubling reason girls drop out of sports

Posted May 16

Girls' participation in sports declines after puberty, and a new study reveals why: They are uncomfortable with their developing bodies. This piece of clothing can help. (Deseret Photo)

Girls' participation in sports declines sharply after puberty, and a new study from the United Kingdom suggests it's because they're uncomfortable with their developing bodies.

Researchers interviewed more than 2,000 British girls, and three-quarters expressed concerns about their breasts, according to The New York Times. Their worries ranged from unease about being seen by other girls in locker rooms to physical discomfort from breast movement.

Dr. Sharonda Alston Taylor, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, told New York Times health writer Jan Hoffman that "as cup size increases, physical activity decreases for a lot of girls."

For women, too.

Up to 72 percent of women who exercise have pain or discomfort from their breasts, lead author Joanna Scurr, a biomechanics professor at the University of Portsmouth in England, told the Times.

That's because breasts move independently of a woman's body and have "little internal support," Hoffman wrote. They're made of soft tissue, not muscle.

A well-fitting sports bra is one solution, but the British researchers found that only 10 percent of girls in the study regularly wore one, and more than half said they had never worn a sports bra.

Girls were more likely to refrain from sports because of their breasts at ages 13 and 14, and at all ages if they had larger breasts. The researchers suggested that they might be helped by education about breast support, bra selection and fit as early as age 11.

An emphasis on breast and bra education might also help the girls later in life since exercising without support can cause lasting damage, Scurr told Fitness magazine.

"Because breasts are made of soft tissue — alas, not muscle — what holds them up is the surrounding skin and the internal Cooper's ligaments, a web of springy coils that are built to rebound until jumping, genetics and gravity catch up with them," the magazine reported.

Exercising without support can ultimately cause breasts to droop, Scurr said. But a well-fitting sports bra can cut their movement in half.

Some fitness companies have made an effort to help provide sports bras for girls. As David Quick reported in The Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C., Moving Comfort/Brooks has partnered with Fleet Feet Sports to provide sports bras through a program called "Support the Girls."

Meanwhile, Health magazine says women and girls should shun two alternative remedies for breast bounce: Botox and duct tape.

Using duct tape to immobilize breasts during activity can irritate the skin and cause a rash, and Botox just doesn't work as a breast lift, even though some women are trying it, the magazine said.


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