The dangers of wearing the wrong SPORTS BRA for your breasts

With the Olympics coming up and summer well underway, there is plenty of motivation to start exercising.

But before hitting the track, studio or gym to try to emulate the stars of Team USA, experts have warned that women should start by kitting themselves out with a good sports bra. 

Sportswear specialists, lingerie experts and healthcare professionals told Daily Mail Online that the vast majority of American women do not wear the right size or type of sports bras to work out – despite the risk of causing irreparable damage to their breasts. 

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Priority: With the Olympics coming up and summer underway, there is plenty of motivation to exercise but it experts claim it is crucial to wear a supportive sports bra that fits, pictured

Size doesn’t matter: According to experts, these problems can affect women with any cup size, whether you have large breasts like model Ashley Graham (left) or have a smaller frame like Karlie Kloss (right)

Experts claim that wearing the wrong size or type of bra for exercise can lead to neck and back pain, breast pain and irreparable damage to the ligaments inside the breast which can result in breasts drooping and stretch marks.

But despite these shocking statistics, high-end sportswear retailer Bandier, working in collaboration with Nike, suggests that a shocking 80 per cent of women are wearing the wrong bra, both when it comes to their regular lingerie, and their sporting attire. 

It was this staggering stat that lead Bandier to team up with Nike on a multi-day bra-fitting event – christened Brahaus – at its flagship store in New York, inviting more than 100 women to visit the venue in order to be properly measured by a trained expert, and then kitted out with the perfect sports bra for their shape. 

‘We were surprised to learn that some of our own team members were not wearing the right sports bra,’ Jenn Bandier, the company’s founder, told Daily Mail Online. 

‘Customers trust Bandier to help them find the best active clothing for their specific workout needs, so it was exciting to partner with Nike on an initiative that helped women find the right support for their sport.’

Meanwhile, an international study of 10,000 women by lingerie brand Triumph found that nearly two thirds of women wear the wrong size bra while nearly a third buy underwear even though they know it does not fit correctly.

Febin Melepura, M.D., a pain specialist at Stanford Pain and Sports Medicine of NYC, said figures for everyday bras are probably replicated when it comes to sports bras. 

He said: ‘If you wear the wrong regular bra, you’re probably going to be wearing the wrong sports bra…

‘Sports bras because there’s more activity and motion, the breast is held together by fatty tissue and Cooper’s ligaments, with all the stress of movement, it does stretch out, it doesn’t go back.

‘It can cause the breasts to sag and cause injury to the connective tissue of breast and cause pain.’

He said women with bigger breasts who wear ill-fitting bras could also experience neck issues, back pain or nerve entrapment.

Research by Reebok found that American women spend $20-$30 on average per sports bra.

But according to specialist New York lingerie store Town Shop, some women will do anything to avoid spending money on the undergarment.

Owner Danny Koch said: ‘We hear customers who have said they take two old bras and wear them on top of each other to make a sports bra.’

He said breasts should not move during exercise, adding: ‘The basic rule of thumb as far as I’m concerned is that your breasts should be closer to your chin than your belly button’.

Once the Cooper’s ligaments are damaged, he said they reach ‘a point of no return’ that leads to stretch marks and breasts dropping.

He said technology is improving over time and recommends sports bras by lingerie brands Wacoal and Panache. 

Majority: According to research released by sportswear retailer Bandier in collaboration with Nike, as many as 80 per cent of women are wearing the wrong bra – including sports bras

Risks: Experts have warned of the dangers of not wearing right sports bra and the potential damage it can cause to the Cooper’s ligaments in the breast, pictured in diagram

Danny, whose great-grandfather Sam founded the shop in 1888, said it is important for women to go for regular bra fittings as breasts can vary in size ‘from week to week or month to month’ and are affected by factors such as weight gain, childbirth and heat. 

He said people should rotate their bras – recommending they are not worn more than around 100 times due to wear from perfumes, perspiration and washing.

‘People tend to hold on to bras for too long. Our rule of thumb is if you have four bras and rotate them, those bras will last just over a year. Wearing a bra 100 times, that’s about it for the bra,’ he said.  

Barbara Ebersberger, VP of Product Marketing at Reebok, said a bra ‘should never celebrate its first birthday’. 

Adding: ‘Because of the materials, sports or everyday bras, because of washing, the materials do have a certain lifespan, you should exchange your bra every single year.’ 

She said ‘a lot of women’ wear either the wrong size sports bra or the wrong bra type.  

‘Problems do arise in the long term because you can damage tissue in your breasts wearing the wrong bra, if it’s destroyed it won’t come back in the way it used to be,’ she added.

Barbara said finding the right size sports bra ‘shouldn’t be a mystery anymore’ but that women can be put off by fear of asking in-store or misled by lack of knowledge or the wrong information.

She suggested that people might be put off spending money on sports bras, in favor of more publicly visible items such as T-shirts or leggings, because they are often not worn as an outer garment.

‘It’s something people won’t necessarily see or recognize. If people only have a certain amount of money to spend, they will maybe spend it on tights or a T-shirt,’ she said.

Marina Sharpe, a spokeswoman for sports bra specialist Shock Absorber USA, said a sports bra is ‘an essential, no matter what chest size you are’.

She added: ‘It really should be the first piece you’re buying. You should aim to buy them throughout the year if you’re using them often…You need to update them every few months like you have to with a running shoe.’ 

Lisa Ndukwe, senior designer at sportswear brand Sweaty Betty, said when choosing a sports bra it is important to select the right impact level.

Without the correct support and coverage, she said women are at risk of causing ‘long term damage’. 

She said: ‘Women believe saggy breasts are due to the size of your breasts however it is actually due to the stretching of the ligaments that hold your breast tissue in place irrespective of your size, hence why even if you are a neat double A it is as important to wear a correctly supportive bra as if you are a double D.’

Lisa said underwear is often overlooked as ‘an after-thought’ when in fact it should be a woman’s ‘starting point’ when buying clothing to work out.

In terms of fit, she said: ‘Your bra should fit tightly at the underband, this is where the majority of the support comes from. This should feel tighter than an everyday bra.

‘You should have good coverage at the side and top of bust to avoid any sideways or upward movement.’

She added: ‘The fabric covering your bust should be tight with no loose fabric. We work with clever seaming and a rigid fabric to both encapsulate and compress providing the best support.

‘The straps are there to hold the bra in place, they shouldn’t be digging in at shoulder.

‘The stretch on the back wing allows comfortable movement during exercise.’