Tackling breast bounce - Portsmouth scientists support England Lionesses

  • England's Lionesses met with University of Portsmouth scientists before the Women's World Cup to find the right sports bras

Any woman who's ever tried to run, knows the problem breast bounce can cause. For top athletes, like England's Lionesses, finding the right sports bra is crucial - and it turns out there's a science to it.

Breasts can bounce up to 11,000 times during a football match, reinforcing how adequate breast support is imperative to helping avoid distraction, discomfort and potential damage.

The FIFA Women's World Cup begins today - and experts at the University of Portsmouth have been working on some serious sport bra engineering to give the team the support they need. It's called breast biomechanics.

The Research Group in Breast Health used its expertise in breast biomechanics to provide bra advice for the England Lionesses Credit: ITV Meridian

Scientists at the University of Portsmouth met with the entire England squad before this World Cup.

"A lot of them wear the sports bras that they're given which aren't necessarily most appropriate for them  - given to them by sponsors - so a lot of them weren't aware of the different styles of bras that were available that might be more suitable doing such a dynamic activity," said Research associate, Melissa Jones.

Experts at the School of Sport Health and Exercise Science have spent years gathering data from thousands of women. Head of Research in Breast Health, Professor Joanna Wakefield-Scurr said they use markers placed on the upper body and movement is captured on multiple cameras.

"We get the data streaming in real time - so this gives us great information about how the breast moves forwards and backwards, how it moves side to side and how it moves up and down. And so that type of information is really important for people who are making bras and designing bras to be able to reduce that movement in all directions."

The scientists use markers placed on the upper body and movement is captured on multiple cameras. Credit: ITV Meridian

With support, rather than compression, the right sports bra can improve performance.

Professor Wakefield-Scurr said: "We've seen the potential for some really interesting and substantial performance gains - we saw a 4cm increase in stride length when women ran wearing high support sports bras - 4cms doesn't sound like very much but over a marathon distance  - 4cms equates to a mile so you would gain a mile running a marathon wearing high support."

The unit's success has been so great they've advised the English Netball national team and at least seven other national football squads ahead of the World Cup including Germany, Spain and Jamaica.

Senior Research Associate, Brogan Jones, said their input is changing the international sportswear industry, as the data they collect can be passed on to manufacturers.

She said: "I've tested over 500 sports bras on thousands of different women - and that's enabled us to create a really large database of sports bra performance."

Claudia Scholl, Senior Product Manager at adidas, added: “Football can be very physically demanding. Breasts can move up to 19cm in high impact movements. Players can make 100 sprints in a game where they reach in excess of 20km/h."

And this knowledge and data isn't just benefitting elite athletes.

Zoe Jones said she has seen improvements: "I play rugby and when I wear a bra that's not supportive, I feel really heavy running around the pitch, dragging myself around like I'm not concentrating on my game. I'm concentrating that my bra's not very good, pulling it up, adjusting it. It's just much better if I have a supportive bra."

Lioness Chloe Kelly twirled her England shirt above her head with her sports bra proudly on show when England triumphed in the Euros Credit: PA

The image of Lioness Chloe Kelly, twirling her England shirt around her head with her sports bra proudly on display, became a history making moment when England triumphed in the Euros.

And at a sporting level where every marginal gain counts, it's hoped the advice and expertise from Portsmouth will help the team towards lifting another sporting trophy in a few week's time.

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