In my previous post from this series, I discussed the hardships I experienced as a youth soccer player and the connection to sports bras. In this post I discuss how the problem progressed into something much worse as a collegiate soccer player. From continued harassment, severe nerve pain, abrasions under my breasts that would bleed down my belly, to breathing difficulties that forced me to come off the field.
INTERESTING FACT: “A third of women experience breast pain during exercise, a stat that increases in lockstep with cup size.”
Additionally a “2013 study found that the average bra size has increased from a 34B to a 34DD over 20 years, and female college athletic participation has increased by 600 percent over the same period.”
Pretty crazy right? Well although the participation has increased drastically, the odds of making it from being a high school soccer player to to playing soccer at a D1 level is 1.3%.
I worked like crazy my whole life for this opportunity and I was so grateful and excited to play in college, as soccer has always been my life. I knew it was going to be one of the toughest challenges I ever took on but I felt more ready than ever for it.
As a college soccer player for better or worse the game and your team are your life. The challenges you go through together bond you in a way you could never imagine.
“Pre-Season training in Costa Rica with Lauren and Stacey. Little break before the madness began!
From waking up as early as 5:00 AM for fitness training and tests to scrimmages at 7:00 PM with practice in the afternoon you had little time for anything else. There were months where double days were a regular thing and weeks in pre-season where 3 training sessions a day was the norm, which lead to a lot of time in sweaty soccer gear.
I found myself rolling out of bed half asleep on my way to our early morning fitness sessions and then then rushing to my first class of the day with little time to change my clothes.
I lived in my sports bras and soccer gear as I was always in and out of training sessions. I saw little point in getting changed for the day to then just be changing back into my soccer gear an hour later, something most college athletes I think can relate to.
Although it was hard to keep up with our rigorous schedule, I loved it. Soccer was my outlet and way for me to express the best version of myself. I have always found the game to be beautiful. I could sit all day watching soccer without getting bored. My friends and family will tell you that I would have made an amazing announcer, as I am always able to say what the broadcaster is about to say before he does.
Now why am I telling you all this? Well it’s because as much as I love soccer, I was up against some physical challenges.
I did not have the typical physique for a college soccer player. I was relatively petite yet with a large chest. By the time I was in college my breasts were a 34DDD/F. Competing as often as we were, and with the level of intensity in which I was competing at, this excess weight in my chest began to take a toll on my body and was having an impact on my performance.
Due to the fact I was also wearing three sports bras on top of each other, known as “triple bagging,” I begun to develop severe neck and shoulder pain. When I would rotate my head quickly in practice or a match it would often freeze and shoot pain to my brain like a brain freeze from drinking something cold to quickly. This would happen pretty much everyday I was playing. There was a study that found breast discomfort is a leading reason women stop participating in sports. And in extreme cases, an ill-fitting bra can actually do nerve damage. Bra straps generally cross over the brachial plexus, the nerve bundle that sends impulses to and from the arm. Women who wear bras with too-tight straps can damage that bundle, causing pain and numbness.”
This is absolutely what was happening to me! Additionally I developed severe burns under my breast from the abrasion & movement of the under band. It would bleed so badly it oftentimes would start to show through our white jerseys or practice shirts and drip down my stomach.
I was already predisposed to being asthmatic and I quickly was realizing by wearing three compressive bras on top of each other it was exacerbating my breathing issues.
In this well researched article- Both Steele and White say there's a constant battle going on between controlling the bounce and making bras comfortable. You could squash the breasts tightly against the body, but that makes it hard to breathe.
What is most discussed in sports bra articles is strain to the cooper’s ligament from excessive bounce in the chest. This strain can lead to pain & sagging of the breasts, turns out additional studies have found right sports bra can reduce this movement up to 83% and prevent damage to your breast, which can inevitably lead to sagging.
These problems lasted all 4 years of college and as I went on to play semi-pro and compete for the Olympic Club in SF. Then there was the challenge after games of actually being able to take off these compressive bras. Once they were drenched in sweat they would stick to my body. At times I would have to recruit teammates to help me take them off as the strain was too much for my fatigued body post training.
Olympic Club vs NYAC in NYC during our annual tournament
Fast forward to 2008 when I began my personal training career and a new subset of problems arose.
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