Professor McGhee breast anatomy

UOW researcher leads international breast health education project

UOW researcher leads international breast health education project

Associate Professor Deirdre McGhee’s project will maximise the breast health and quality of life for all women

University of Wollongong (UOW) Associate Professor Deirdre McGhee will attend an international women’s cricket event in Hong Kong this week to run a practical workshop on breast support and bra fit, as well as help create connections for women whose access to sports bras is limited.

FairBreak Invitational 2023 is an international women's cricket competition. The global tournament, organised by Fairbreak Global between 3-16 April 2023, will see 90 female cricketers from 36 countries and territories compete while also promoting global gender equality.

Associate Professor McGhee attended the 2022 tournament (which took place in Dubai) and ran an education and research project, which included one-on-one consultations with athletes. Their sports bras worn during training and competition were physically assessed for the level of breast support they provided, (relative to the each athlete’s breast size and the breast movement involved when playing cricket) and for the correct fit.

“The research found that the majority of these international elite cricket players were wearing bras that did not provide sufficient breast support and were not correctly fitted. Bra-related issues of breast pain, bra discomfort and dissatisfaction with sports bras were also commonly reported,” Associate Professor McGhee said.

“Another theme that emerged for some women last year was limited access to sports bras and a need for practical training on breast support and bra fit. Such training could also assist international athletes, coaches and clinicians to run practical breast support and bra fit workshops for other female athletes in their own countries.”

The outcome of Associate Professor’s involvement in the 2022 event was three organisations teaming up to run a world-first women’s health project to maximise the breast health and quality of life of all women.

Breast Research Australia at UOW, Fairbreak Global and The Sports Bra Project share a common goal to promote equal opportunity for women globally. They’ve come together for FairBreak 2023 to disseminate breast health education and provide opportunity to access sports bras to women all around the world.

They will do this by:

  • Running practical breast support and bra fit workshops to guide women (athletes, coaches and clinicians) on how to run a practical session for female athletes in their own country, so that these women can independently choose a supportive, well-fitting and comfortable sports bra.
  • Providing links to free, accessible, online educational resources on breast health developed by Breast Research Australia, UOW and the Australian institute of Sport Female Performance and Health Initiative.
  • Providing links to The Sports Bra Project (TSBP), a world-wide organisation providing free sports bras to female athletes don’t have access to such a basic piece of equipment.

“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.

“It is vital that we educate female athletes and active women and adolescents all over the world to empower them with the knowledge and ability to independently choose a supportive, well-fitting, comfortable sports bra to maximise their participation, comfort and performance in sport.

“At the same time, we need to give all women equal opportunity to access sports bras, especially in countries where access is limited.”

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.

“All women deserve the right to wear a supportive, correctly fitted, comfortable sports bra and all women deserve the right to enjoy the incredible physical and mental health benefits of sport and exercise.”

The University of Wollongong is firmly committed to addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Associate Professor McGhee’s project demonstrates UOW’s commitment to SDG 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing), SDG 5 (Gender Equality) and SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities).