Lack of knowledge about avoiding breast pain leads girls to skip sports classes

Written by: Emma Lee-Potter | Published:

About half of all girls at UK secondary schools may be avoiding sport because of embarrassment or pain caused by their breasts.

New research has found that very few girls know what sort of bra to wear, whether their bra is a good fit or how to avoid breast pain while exercising. The study, conducted by the Research Group in Breast Health at the University of Portsmouth, is the first in the UK to look at this issue.

More than 2,000 girls aged 11 to 17 took part in the study. Three-quarters of them said they had at least one concern about their breasts, including embarrassment when they get changed for sport and PE, breast bounce during exercise and breast pain. Their concerns were most in evidence at age 14.

More than half the girls said they never wore a sports bra and virtually all of them agreed that they would like to know more about breast health and breast support.

Fifteen per cent thought their breasts were too big to be able to exercise and those with larger breasts (D-cup and bigger) were more likely to opt out of sport and exercise than those with smaller breasts.

Professor Joanna Scurr, who leads the research group, said: “Previous studies of adult women have shown time and again that the same concerns are directly responsible for women no longer taking part in sport or exercise. What makes this worse is that as scientists we know that proper breast support reduces or even eliminates the problems associated with breast movement during sport. All that is needed is better education, preferably at puberty, for all girls.

“Puberty is undoubtedly a difficult time for children of both sexes. But more girls than boys drop out of sport at around this age. Even for those who overcome their physical embarrassment or awkwardness, the bra marketplace can be overwhelming and confusing.”

The next phase of the team’s research is to produce a range of online resources that will be freely available to schools to download and use to educate girls on breast health.

If your school is interested in finding out more, you can email or visit


Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
Sign up SecEd Bulletin