The safety and wellbeing of athletes is priority number one in modern day sports. The research into head trauma and concussion has changed the sporting landscape dramatically in recent years. Now Boob Armour founder Suzie Betts wants to add breast protection to the list of player safety requirements.
Betts founded Boob Armour with one ambition, to give women and girls the confidence to play contact sports while protecting their breasts from impact and injury.
There are around 2,000,000 women and girls playing for thousands of sporting teams across Australia, which means more than 4 million breasts being elbowed, hit, bumped, shirt-fronted and kicked.
"Breasts need good support to minimise movement during sports, and should be protected from impact," explains Betts. "You wouldn’t play impact sport without a mouth guard or shin guards, similarly women and girls shouldn’t play impact sport without adequate protection for their breasts. The long term consequences can be devastating.
“This product is for everyone from grass roots to social to elite.”
Boob Armour is an officially licenced product of the AFL/AFLW and is also designed to protect females playing soccer, cricket, basketball, rugby, hockey, lacrosse, volleyball, baseball and any other sport where bodies are vulnerable to physical impact.
There are seven sizes of Boob Armour which has been tested for a range of protective properties such as impact qualities as well as fit and comfort.
Betts explains the science behind the product, which is fast becoming a must have piece of equipment for female athletes of all ages, backgrounds and level of play.
"During running, you're looking at about 15 centimetres of breast movement in the average woman, although up to 21 centimetres may occur in larger breasts, which is a substantial amount of movement," explains Betts. "This can cause discomfort or pain, reported in up to 72% of exercising females, which in turn has an effect on the likelihood of girls and women engaging in sport.
"Research studies have confirmed that well-designed sports bras, in which each breast is supported in a separate cup are more effective in limiting excessive motion and associated breast discomfort or pain than standard fashion bras.
"However compressing breasts against the chest can come with its own associated pain. As Boob Armour consists of protective cups that are inserted into the sports bra, they differ from other breast protective products that squash the breasts against the chest.”
With her own story to tell about the long term affects of breast trauma, this became a no-brainer for Betts, who is a passionate advocate for women's safety on the sports field.
Two years ago Betts had a scare after discovering lumps in her breasts. One of the first questions her surgeon asked was if she had received any physical trauma to her breasts. This got her thinking about the number of women who play sport who have a higher risk of this happening.
"Apart from the pain, and maybe having to miss a game, it has been shown that significant impact bruising to the female breast may result in the formation of hard nodules/ lumps in the breast tissue that may not cause breast cancer, but can be difficult to differentiate from, which effectively means women have to go through the same financial and emotional cost that any potential breast cancer patient goes through.
"Boob Armour inserts are made from strong but soft Polyethylene that act to decrease impact during contact sports."
The product has been endorsed by a number of athletes from grass roots kids and mums to elite athletes, including former Western Bulldogs 2018 premiership player and Melbourne Demons defender Libby Birch. The All Australian, who is a physiotherapy student, is pleased to see that breast trauma was being investigated in impact sports including Aussie Rules Football.
“Women in sport has changed, and that’s super exciting," said Birch. “We’re in all impact sports, not just football. We are impacting the game and our bodies are being impacted. We don’t play soft and we love the new environments that we can all enjoy participating in at so many different levels from grass roots, social and through to elite.
“For young girls coming through these new sporting pathways, it’s so important we learn to protect our body parts from a young age.
“We are being elbowed, bumped, shirt-fronted and kicked in the breasts. Boob Armour is a wonderful protective solution for every woman and girl involved in sport.
“Just as we have all been educated to wear mouth guards let’s all spread the word about the massive benefits in female health for us all to wear Boob Armour every time we play and train.
“Too many of us, are simply unaware of the problem and underestimate the occurrence of breast injuries in women and girls playing impact sport. Too many women and girls are simply not reporting breast injuries.
“I hope every single woman and girl playing contact sport understands that her breasts are being impacted each time we are bumped, kicked or shoved and that we can now feel motivated to get out there and play the game we love, confident that our breasts are being protected from injury and impact today, and into the future."
An Australian owned and operated business, Boob Armour has been passed as suitable for women and girls as young as eight years, with the product available at boobarmour.com.au.
Boob Armour is donating $1 for every online sale to the Mcgrath Foundation. The Mcgrath foundation, named after the late Jane Mcgrath, helps fund 151 breast care nurses across Australia and has helped 90,000 families since 2005.
Photo: Boob Armour founder Suzie Betts is passionate about breast trauma protection for females playing sport