Currently, World Rugby are investing in a review of Regulation 12 by the University of Sheffield and Manchester Metropolitan University. Regulation 12 defines the performance requirements of player’s clothing and equipment. This review is being undertaken as a result of queries from manufacturers and ongoing research on the topic by a number of research groups. A portion of the review is focussing specifically on women’s equipment. World Rugby have partnered with the International Rugby Players (IRP) to provide guidance that has come from the early stages of the review to promote player welfare in the women’s game.
As part of their research into women’s sport and more specifically contact sports (rugby union, rugby league and Australian Rules Football), Breast Research Australia (BRA) have found that 60% of women participating in contact sports reported sustaining a breast injury, with 33% of these indicating it adversely affected their performance. 50% of those who wear breast padding perceived their chosen padding as being ineffective.
Alarmingly, 49% of those who had experienced a breast injury did NOT report their injury or seek any kind of treatment.
In addition to this survey BRA have also looked at what equipment women wear in contact sport. A previous study completed by BRA found that 85% of women are not wearing suitable sizes or fit for their body shape. World Rugby and IRP are looking to raise awareness of these issues, in particular.
Breast pain or injury should be treated like any other soft tissue injury and reported to a medic. Medics can then treat the pain or injury to ensure that the breast tissue heals properly. This will reduce the risk of reoccurrence and/or exacerbation of the injury from further play.
Ill-fitting or inappropriate sports-wear can affect a player’s performance and result in exercise-induced breast pain for the wearer because of insufficient breast support or chaffing. It is recommended that all players wearing sports bras or breast padding seek professional advice in the sizing and fitting to minimise the risk of soreness or discomfort. BRA have developed an app to assist in identifying what sports bras are suitable for different breast sizes (for a range of sports) and a guide to correct bra fit which can be accessed at https://bra.edu.au/sportsbra.
Doctors working with women’s rugby teams should also be aware of these issues so that they can be raised with players. Raising the issue with players may result in actions being taken to reduce the risk in future.