Breast Research Australia (BRA)

BRA aims to develop research, educational, commercial and clinical strategies to improve bra fit and bra design so that all females, irrespective of age, breast size, or disease status, are able to participate comfortably in physical activity and enjoy the health benefits associated with an active lifestyle.

What do we do?

Breast Research Australia (BRA) is an internationally innovative centre of excellence, which is committed to providing coordinated evidence-based research, education, and commercial and clinical services to decrease breast-related discomfort and injury so all females can participate comfortably in activities of daily living, work and recreation.

Working closely with the Biomechanics Research Laboratory at the University of Wollongong, BRA has developed an internationally unique and active research program examining the biomechanics of “Breast Health & Bra Design”. This research has investigated effective bra designs, aspects of improving bra fit, and innovative ways of educating females on how to purchase a well-fitted supportive bra for their needs.

Associate Professor Deirdre McGhee

Co-founder and Director

Deirdre McGhee's profile

School of Medicine
Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health
University of Wollongong
Northfields Avenue
Wollongong
New South Wales 2522
Australia

Telephone: +61 (0)2 4221 4980
Email: deirdre_mcghee@uow.edu.au 

Emeritus Professor Julie Steele

Co-founder

Emeritus Professor Julie Steele, pictured on UOW's Campus. Photo: Paul Jones

Julie Steele's profile

School of Medicine
Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health
University of Wollongong
Northfields Avenue
Wollongong
New South Wales 2522
Australia

Email: julie_steele@uow.edu.au 

Dr Bonnie McRae

(co-supervisor Robyn Tyler)

Dr Bonnie McRae is a Sports & Exercise Medicine Registrar. Bonnie has been working with Women’s Rugby League since the inaugural NRLW season in 2018. She has been the Chief Medical Officer for the NRLW Brisbane Broncos since 2018 as well as the Chief Medical Officer for the QRL Harvey Norman Maroons Women’s State of Origin team since 2019. Bonnie has also been involved in medical care of female rugby league athletes in All Stars matches, National championships, and at community club level.  

Robyn Tyler

Project: Breast injuries, breast pain and support in Australian Women’s Rugby League.

PhD

  • Brooke Brisbine: 2020 - Breast pain and breast injuries experienced by female athletes
  • Celeste Coltman: 2018 - Breast Characteristics of Australian women. 
  • Sheridan Gho: 2014 - Building better bras for women treated for breast cancer. 
  • Deirdre McGhee: 2010 - Sports bra design and bra fit: Minimising exercise-induced breast discomfort.

MPhil

  • Kathryn Gaskin: 2018 -  Structural anatomy of the breast.

Honours

  • Kate Mikilewicz: 2017, Bachelor of Medical & Health Science (Honours: 1st Class) - Effect of external breast prosthesis mass on upper torso loading and discomfort in women with a unilateral mastectomy.
  • Karly Coltman: 2013, Bachelor of Medical & Health Science (Honours: 1st Class) - Does breast size affect the structure and function of the upper torso?.
  • Celeste Coltman: 2012, Bachelor of Science (Honours: 1st Class) - How do bra strap orientation and design affect comfort and breast support for women with large breasts?.
  • Sheridan Gho: 2007, Bachelor of Science (Honours: First Class) - To what extent are bras an impediment to exercise for breast cancer patients?.

 

Given the benefits of exercise, it is concerning that some women refrain from physical activity due to the pain and/or embarrassment associated with excessive breast motion. In fact, up to 70% of women report suffering exercise-induced breast discomfort during exercises involving running and jumping, and this leads to many of these women reducing their physical activity participation. To minimise excessive breast motion and the associated breast discomfort, it is essential that women wear a well-fitted, supportive bra.

Correct bra fit is imperative to good health, as ill-fitting bras have been reported to contribute to poor posture and musculoskeletal problems (e.g. upper limb neural symptoms, non-cyclical mastalgia, neck and back pain). These symptoms can be so severe as to force females with large breasts to seek a breast reduction or inhibit them from participating in physical activity.

Despite the importance of correct bra fit, surprisingly greater than 70% of women wear the wrong size bra. As a well-fitted and supportive bra can alleviate up to 85% of these symptoms, allowing women to exercise in greater comfort and possibly removing the need for breast reduction surgery, strategies that can ensure correct breast support are vital.

Resources

Sports Bra App
Exercise and Breast Support
Girl running Sports Bra Fitness
AIS Female Performance & Health Initiative (FPHI) Breast health education module - released early December, 2021
Podcast BJSM - Let’s exercise in comfort! Breast health and injuries with Deirdre McGhee. Ep #487
Pregnancy & Exercise Fact sheet - released early December, 2021
Physical Preparation & Recovery After Breast Reconstruction
Advise for female rugby players

Research Publications

  • McGhee DE & Steele JR. Perspectives for Progress: Biomechanics of breast support for active women. Exercise and Sports Sciences Reviews, 2020, 48(3): 99-109 (invited paper).
  • McGhee DE & Steele JR. Video Abstract: Biomechanics of Breast Support for Active Women. Associated with Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 2020,48(3): 99-109. https://journals.lww.com/acsm-essr/Pages/videogallery.aspx.
  • McGhee DE & Steele JR. Breast biomechanics: What do we really know? Physiology, 2020, 35(2): 144-156 (invited paper).
  • McGhee DE & Steele JR. Physical side-effects following breast reconstructive surgery impact physical activity and function. Supportive Care in Cancer, 2020, 29(2), 787-794. doi: 10.1007/s00520-020-05534-6.
  • Gaskin KM, Peoples GE & McGhee DE. The fibro-adipose structure of the female breast: A dissection study. Clinical Anatomy, 2020, 33(1): 146-155.
  • Gaskin KM, Peoples GE & McGhee DE. The attachments of the breast to the chest wall: A dissection study. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 2020, 146(1):11e-22e. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000006954.
  • Brisbine BR, Steele JR, Phillips E & McGhee DE. Can physical characteristics and sports bra use predict exercise-induced breast pain in elite female athletes? Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, doi: 10.1097/JSM.0000000000000831.
  • Brisbine BR, Steele JR, Phillips E & McGhee DE. Breast and torso characteristics of female contact football players: Implications for the design of sports bra and breast protection. Ergonomics, 2020, 63(7): 850-863.
  • Brisbine BR, Steele JR, Phillips E & McGhee DE. Breast pain affects the performance of elite female athletes. Journal of Sports Sciences, 2020, 38(5): 528-533.
  • Brisbine BR, Steele JR, Phillips E & McGhee DE. Use and perception of breast protective equipment by female contact football players. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 2020, 23(9): 820-825.
  • McGhee, D.E., Mikilewicz, K.L. & Steele, J.R. Effect of external breast prosthesis mass on bra strap loading and discomfort in women with a unilateral mastectomy. Clinical Biomechanics, 2020, 73, 86-91.
  • Brisbine BR, Steele JR, Phillips E & McGhee DE. Breast injuries reported by female contact football players based on football code, player position and competition level. Science and Medicine in Football, 2020, 4(2): 148-155.
  • Steele, J.R., Coltman, C.E. & McGhee, D.E. Effects of obesity on breast size, thoracic spine structure and function, upper torso musculoskeletal pain and physical activity in women. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 2020, 9(2): 140-148. Open Access (invited paper).
  • Brisbine BR, Steele JR, Phillips E & McGhee DE. The occurrence, causes and perceived performance effects of breast injuries in elite female athletes. Journal of Sport Science and Medicine, 2019, 18: 569-576. Open Access
  • Coltman CE, Steele JR & McGhee DE. Effect of breast size on upper torso musculoskeletal structure and function: A cross-sectional study. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 2019, 143:686-695.
  • Coltman CE, Steele JR & McGhee DE. Does breast size affect how women participate in physical activity? Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 2019, 22:324-329.
  • Coltman CE, Steele JR & McGhee DE. Effects of age and body mass index on breast characteristics: A cluster analysis. Ergonomics, 2018, 61:1232-1245.
  • Steele JR, Gho SA, Campbell TE, Richards CJ, Beirne S, Spinks GM & Wallace GG. The Bionic Bra: Using electromaterials to sense and modify breast support to enhance active living. Journal of Rehabilitation and Assistive Technologies Engineering (RATE), 2018, 5:1-9.
  • Coltman CE, Steele JR & McGhee DE. Which bra components contribute to incorrect bra fit in women across a range of breast sizes? Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 2018, 36:78-90.
  • McGhee DE, Ramsay LG, Coltman CE, Gho SA & Steele JR. Bra band size measurements derived from three-dimensional scans are not accurate in women with large, ptotic breasts. Ergonomics, 2018, 61:464-472.
  • Coltman CE, Steele JR & McGhee DE Can breast characteristics predict upper torso musculoskeletal pain? Clinical Biomechanics, 2018, 53:46-53.
  • McGhee DE, Coltman KA, Riddiford-Harland DL & Steele JR. Upper torso pain and musculoskeletal structure and function in women with and without large breasts: A cross sectional study. Clinical Biomechanics. 2018, 51:99-104.
  • Coltman CE, Steele JR & McGhee DE. Breast volume is affected by body mass index but not age. Ergonomics. 2017, 60:1576-1585.
  • Coltman CE, Steele JR & McGhee DE. Effect of aging on breast skin thickness and elasticity: Implications for breast support. Skin Research & Technology, 2017, 23:303-311.
  • Coltman CE, McGhee DE & Steele JR. Three-dimensional scanning in women with large, ptotic breasts: Implications for bra cup sizing and design. Ergonomics, 2017, 60:439-445.
  • Chen X, Gho SA, Wang J & Steele JR. Effect of sports bra type and gait speed on breast discomfort, bra discomfort and perceived breast movement in Chinese women. Ergonomics, 2016, 59:130-142.
  • Coltman CE, McGhee DE & Steele JR. Bra strap orientations and designs to minimise bra strap discomfort and pressure during sport and exercise in women with large breasts. Sports Medicine – Open, 2015, 1:21.
  • Gho SA, Munro BJ, Jones SC & Steele JR. Perceived exercise barriers explain exercise participation in Australian women treated for breast cancer better than perceived exercise benefits. Physical Therapy, 2014, 94:1765-1774.
  • Gho SA, Munro BJ, Jones SC & Steele JR. Evidence-based recommendations for building better bras for women treated for breast cancer. Ergonomics, 2014, 57:774-786.
  • Gho SA, Steele JR, Jones SC & Munro BJ. Exercise bra discomfort is associated with insufficient exercise levels among Australian women treated for breast cancer. Supportive Care in Cancer, 2014, 22:721-729.

 

  • Bowles K-A & Steele JR. Effects of strap cushions and strap orientation on comfort and sports bra performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2013, 45:1113-1119.
  • Gho SA, Steele JR, Jones SC & Munro BJ. Self-reported side effects of breast cancer treatment: A cross-sectional study of incidence, associations, and the influence of exercise Cancer Causes & Control, 2013, 24:517-528.
  • McGhee DE, Steele JR, Zealey WJ & Takacs G. Bra-breast forces generated in women with large breasts while standing and during treadmill running: Implications for sports bra design. Applied Ergonomics, 2013, 44:112-118.

 

  • Bowles K-A, Steele JR & Munro BJ. Features of sports bras that deter their use by Australian women. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 2012, 15:195-200.

 

  • McGhee DE & Steele JR. Breast volume and bra size. International Journal of Clothing Science and Technology, 2011, 23:351-360.

 

  • McGhee DE & Steele JR. Optimising breast support in female patients through correct bra fit. A cross sectional study. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 2010, 13:568-572.
  • McGhee DE & Steele JR. Breast elevation and compression decreases exercise-induced breast discomfort. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 2010, 42:1333-1338.
  • Gho SA, Steele JR & Munro BJ. Is bra discomfort a barrier to exercise for breast cancer patients? Supportive Care in Cancer, 2010, 18:735-741.
  • McGhee DE, Steele JR & Munro BJ. Education improves bra knowledge and fit, and level of breast support in adolescent female athletes: A cluster-randomised trial. Journal of Physiotherapy, 2010, 56:19-24.
  • Bowles K-A, Steele JR & Munro B. What are the breast support choices of Australian women during physical activity? British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2008, 42:670-673.
  • McGhee DE, Steele JR & Power BM. Does deep water running reduce exercise-induced breast discomfort? British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2007, 41:879-883.
  • Campbell TE, Munro BJ, Wallace GG & Steele JR. Can fabric sensors monitor breast motion? Journal of Biomechanics, 2007, 40:3056-3059.
  • McGhee DM & Steele JR. How do respiratory state and measurement method affect bra size calculations? British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2006, 40:970-974.
  • Bowles K-A, Steele JR & Chaunchaiyakul R. Do current sports brassiere designs impede respiratory function? Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, 2005, 37:1633-1640.
  • Page K-A & Steele JR. Breast motion and sports brassiere design: Implications for future research (Leading Article). Sports Medicine, 1999, 27:205-211.

 

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