80% of women wear the wrong bra size, this can be the case for sports bra’s too. In fact, many women I have spoken to in clinic were not even aware of how to find the best fit and some weren’t even aware that there were different types of sports bras.
A good-fitting sports bra minimizes breast movement, prevents excessive bouncing and doesn’t distract you from pursuing basketball. If your sports bra doesn’t fit well, it can lead to a number of common issues; resulting in some women even stopping playing.
There is no exact science to sports bra fitting but read on to find out more about:
- Common issues
- Different types of sports bras
- How to find the right type and size for you
However, it is worth noting that unfortunately, there is no universal sizing when it comes to bras. This means that sizing can be inconsistent across different types and brands. Make sure you try on several brands, sizes and styles until you find the one (or ones) that feel right for you.
Why is it important to have a good sports bra for basketball?
Current research carried out by the University of Portsmouth has shown that running in the wrong type of bra can actually stress the breast tissue. Running causes your breasts to move in a figure of eight motion. For some, the up and down movement can be as much as eight inches. They also found that whilst low and medium impact bras reduced the up and down motion when running, they were ineffective for side to side movement.
In fact, their research shows that women also change the way they run if they are not supported by their sports bra. So, wearing a good sports bra will not only provide you with vital support, it will improve your performance on the court too.
In addition to running, basketball also has other high impact movements such as bounding hopping, rebounding and pivoting. This is likely to mean that you will also need more support to reduce excessive breast movement.
Common issues with not having a good sports bra
Even though I have had anatomy and physiology training as physio, I was not actually taught anything about breast health (or women’s health for that matter) at university. It was only through further reading and research that I found out that the breasts themselves do not have any support mechanisms other than the skin and a thin collection of connective tissue called Cooper’s ligaments.
There seems to be a common misconception from women I have spoken to in clinic around whether breasts have muscles that support them. The short answer is that the breast themselves do not have muscles that support them. They are made up of fat and glands. Breast tissue sits on top of the chest wall and pectoral muscles.
With a lack of natural support and without the correct support and sports bra, you may experience:
- Excessive movement
- Pain (breast tissue and back)
- Breast sag
- Altered running and movement patterns
- Reduced performance
It is also a myth that only women with large breasts experience these symptoms.
For some, these symptoms can be embarrassing. Unfortunately, research has shown that this stops some girls and women from even participating in sport.
So what type of sports bra do I need for basketball?
Ultimately, the best sports bra will be one that fits well, feels comfortable, allows you to run, jump and shoot the ball.
Sports bras come in three different types:
Compression – flatten/squash the breasts against the body
Encapsulation – support each breast separately like an everyday bra
Combination – do both the above
There isn’t actually the best type…it is up to you what is the best type for you! Find the sports bra that you feel most comfortable and supported in.
Sports bras can also be listed as low, medium and high impact. It is likely that a higher impact bra is required for basketball. Again, this depends on your preference and the one that allows you to play your game.
High impact bras are usually made with a defined cup structure to encapsulate and support each breast. Not all high impact bras will use the combination of both encapsulation and compression methods to maximise support.
The other thing to consider is the type of fabric. As you already know, basketball is a high energy game that gets very sweaty. Finding a material that wicks moisture away from your skin is an important feature. Some sports bras have cups that allow your breasts to breathe.
How to find the right fitting sports bra for you
There are 5 key components to think about when finding the best fit for your sports bra:
- Shoulder Straps
- Centre front
Sports bras should fit slightly snugger than your everyday bra but you should still be able to breathe deeply and comfortably.
It is important to calculate your bra size each time you purchase a new sports bra. Your bra size will change a number of times over your lifetime. Body changes such as weight loss or gain, pregnancy, hormones and ageing will affect bra size.
If you haven’t measured yourself lately, use the guide below.
Step 1 of fitting your sports bra – The Underband
The underband is where most of the support comes from and not the shoulder straps.
Measure around your ribcage just beneath your breasts. This should be level all the way around the body. It should be snug but loose enough that you can fit 2 fingers underneath
When you try on a sports bra, the underband should be level all the way around the body and should remain that way when jumping up and down too. It shouldn’t be too tight but a snug fit with enough give that you can fit 2 fingers under the band.
The table below can help you to find your corresponding band size based on your rib cage measurement. But remember, different bra manufacturers can use different sizing. Trying them on is best.
Rib Cage Measurement
25″ – 27″
27″ – 29″
29″ – 31″
31″ – 33″
33″ – 35″
35″ – 37″
37″ – 39″
39″ – 41″
Finally, wider bands typically provide more support than narrow bands. Hook and loop closures will allow greater support and customised fit.
Step 2 of fitting your sports bra – The Shoulder Straps
The shoulder straps should again use the 2-finger rule. A snug fit that you can fit 2 fingers underneath. You do not want the shoulder straps tight as this could restrict your shoulder movement for shooting and passing. The straps should not dig in.
You also do not want them too loose so that they slip off. The shoulder straps help the cup to fit properly.
Adjustable straps will provide a more customised fit. Wider straps may better disperse weight and be more comfortable than narrower straps.
Finally, it is ok if the straps need to be adjusted to different lengths. This is commonly required as often the left and right breast are different sizes.
Tip: raise your hands above your head and practice shooting form. If the straps slip or the underband rides up, it is likely the bra is too big.
Step 3 of fitting your sports bra – The Cups
This step may only be required if you are choosing an encapsulation or combination bra (usually high impact).
The breasts shouldn’t spill over or out of the cups. The cups should be a nice snug fit and completely covering the breast tissue.
Likewise, they shouldn’t be too loose. Wrinkles in the fabric, material gaping or hanging away from the breasts are signs that the cup is too big.
To measure your bust size for cups. Measure around the fullest part of your breast. Again, the tape measure should be snug but not so tight that it restricts breathing. Then subtract your rib cage measurement from your bust measurement. The difference is your cup size. If you’re in between sizes, round up.
I know I might start to sound like a broken record. However, remember that different manufacturers and type of bras will fit differently. This might mean that despite measuring, you may be a different size cup in different bras. Again, trying a few different bras and sizes is best to find the right fit for you.
Difference in Measurement
Your Cup Size
Step 4 of fitting your sports bra – The Centre Front
The centre front is the part that sits between the breasts. It should sit flat against the chest. If it doesn’t sit flat, it is likely that the cup size is too small.
Step 5 of fitting your sports bra – The Underwire
If the sports bra you are using or choosing has an underwire, it is important that it sits flat against the rib cage. It should sit underneath the breast tissue and not sitting against the breast tissue or under the arms.
You can check this by pushing on the outside of the underwire to see if anything is squashed.
Testing your sports bra fit
Even once you have done the above, finding the right sports bra for you can be tricky. Try out a few brands, types and sizes and do some tests before you buy.
- Running on the spot
- Do you shooting form and passing movements too
If there is excessive movement, it is uncomfortable, restricting breathing or not allowing game movements, keep looking for a better fitting bra.
If you are in doubt, find a local bra fitting service.
Sports bra chafing?
For some individuals, chafing can occur even though they have done their best to get a correctly fitted sports bra. Bra chafing occurs when your bra rubs against your skin in uncomfortable ways. This can become painful. When do you try your sports bra during a fitting, make sure there is no chafing under the band, underarm openings or under the shoulder straps.
Chafing results from friction, which can be caused by a number of factors such as:
A poor fit
Worn out/older bra,
Excessive sweating (non-wicking material)
Playing in hotter climates or gym (generally not an issue in the UK)
Chafing can also be an issue during longer workouts such as training camps.
Solutions for chafing:
Ensure a good fit
Retire an older bra
Apply an anti-chafing balm before wearing your sports bra
Find the bra with the softest band
Rotate different styles for high-impact activities
How long does a sports bra last?
A sports bra will roughly last around 30-40 washes. It is common for technical fabrics to loosen with each wash. Regrettably, this can make sports bras and expensive game. To give your bra a longer lifespan:
Wash in cold water
Avoid fabric softener and bleach
Do not tumble dry as heat will decrease the elasticity of the material.
That is the in-depth look at sports bra for ballers. If you run a club or organisation with adolescent players, there are some great resources for breast health and bras at Treasure your Chest.
We have also put together some posters as free downloadable resources for clubs. Use the buttons below to download.
Remember, these resources should not replace diagnosis and management from a medical professional. Always check before you follow the guidance and try before you buy. If you have any questions…feel free to leave a comment or drop us an email.
If you liked the free guide and resources, your support can help us to create more resources.
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