Professor McGhee breast anatomy

Research into breast injuries to boost global awareness of female athletes and coaches

Research into breast injuries to boost global awareness of female athletes and coaches

UOW researcher travels to the international women's cricket competition in Dubai to lead her health project

According to the latest research by University of Wollongong (UOW) Associate Professor Deirdre McGhee, almost 60 per cent of female athletes had experienced a previous breast injury, and 90 per cent of them never reported these injuries to anyone.

This week, along with one of her research students, a sports physiotherapist Elyse Potter, Associate Professor McGhee has travelled to Dubai to attend the FairBreak Invitational 2022, an international women's cricket competition. The global tournament, organised by Fairbreak Global, will take place on May 1-15, 2022, and will see 90 female cricketers from 31 countries compete while also promoting global gender equality.

During the event, athletes will have one-on-one consultations with a sports physiotherapist, focusing on breast pain, injuries or any breast support issues, which will work as a future model of care for physiotherapists and professional female athletes across all sports.

“Our main goal is to educate international women's cricket leaders on these fundamental female-specific health issues, such as breast pain and breast support, breast injuries and breast protection,” Associate Professor McGhee said.

“We are also setting up a global education platform, with free educational resources made by Breast Research Australia (based at the University of Wollongong) and the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), Female Performance and Health Initiative. We want to recruit, train and mentor Breast Education Leaders from 31 countries to take this education back to active women and female athletes in their own countries. We aim to promote breast health awareness to women all over the world”.

Associate Professor McGhee, from UOW's School of Medicine, Indigenous and Health Sciences, is the Director of Breast Research Australia, where for the past 20 years, she has led research and education on breast pain and breast injuries amongst active women and female athletes. During her career, she has worked collaboratively with Sports Medicine Australia and the AIS, creating sports medicine guidelines on effective breast support during exercise.

She has also developed a world-first Sports Bra app, a free online tool that helps women of all ages, breast sizes and activity levels to independently choose a sports bra design that will fit them correctly. A well-fitted and supportive bra allows women to exercise in greater comfort and reduces exercise-induced pain by up to 85 per cent.

“In the whole sector of breast injuries, there's still a lot to be done. We need to raise awareness that breast injuries can occur during any sport, and we need to educate athletes to report these injuries so they can get treated,” Associate Professor McGhee said.

“At the same time, we have to educate clinicians on treating breast injuries effectively while encouraging sports coaches to create an open and trusting environment, so that active women are not reluctant to talk about breast pain and injuries.”