I am an active and passionate advocate for women’s health. My Breast Health Research and Breast Research Australia (BRA), which I co-directed with Senior Professor Julie Steele aim to improve women’s health by addressing the barriers that breasts can have on physical activity levels, athletic performance and the musculoskeletal system. My expertise in breast anatomy and biomechanics, combined with my extensive experience as a physiotherapist and teacher have enabled me to drive clinically-focused research that addresses real-world, breast-related problems. This research has three focus areas: (i) breast cancer, (ii) breast support, bra fit and sports bra design, and (iii) breast injuries in sport.
Breast cancer: My clinical research into the physical issues experienced by women after breast cancer surgery has and will continue to have global impact on the lives of women. I have identified a substantial gap in the management of women living with breast cancer, identifying the extent and severity of the physical side-effects that many of these women quietly suffer from. Many of these symptoms could be relieved or resolved by very simple and inexpensive education and interventions. It has become my mission in life to raise awareness of these physical side-effects by creating innovative on-line resources to guide women how to manage their physical rehabilitation and maximise their physical recovery from breast cancer surgery. In conjunction with Breast Cancer Network Australia, I led a team of clinical experts, researchers and patient advocates across Australia to develop an online educational resource to help women prepare for breast reconstructive surgery: Physical Preparation and Recovery from Breast Reconstructive Surgery (https://www.bcna.org.au/understanding-breast-cancer/treatment/breast-reconstruction/physical-preparation-recovery-after-breast-reconstruction/). I aim to make additional resources to guide women (using a 5 stage program) on their physical recovery from surgery, from the post-operative period to the point of return to full physical function and sport.
Breast support and bra fit: The translation of my breast support and bra fit research has also impacted women’s health and sport globally. I co-developed the first sports medicine evidence-based guidelines in the world on breast support and bra fit during physical activity (https://sma.org.au/resources-advice/injury-fact-sheets/exercise-and-breast-support/). This resource is currently used by coaching and sports medicine organisations both nationally and internationally (e.g. World Rugby, Sports Medicine Australia) to guide female athletes on breast support. I also developed a freely accessible Sports bra App (https://www.bra.edu.au/sportsbra/) to guide active women on breast support and bra fit, which is used by female athletes and active women around the world and is currently being translated into Italian (to guide Italian women how to find a comfortable bra after breast cancer surgery). It was also recently featured in the New York Times.
My breast support and bra fit research has led to meaningful change in public health, clinical practice and sports medicine and industry. In terms of public health, the educational resources and workshops on breast support and bra fit I have given to clinicians, sporting organisations, high schools and community-based women’s health and breast cancer support groups have raised community awareness and “normalised the conversation” of these breast health issues. This is vital to promote the continued participation of females in physical activity and sport, particularly adolescent females. In clinical practice and sports medicine, they have improved the treatment provided by physiotherapists and doctors of the musculoskeletal issues suffered by women with large breasts, women living with breast cancer and breast pain during sport and exercise. In industry, my research been translated into improved sports bra designs and bra fit by providing the scientific knowledge underpinning sports bra designs, bra sizing and bra fit, particularly for women with large breasts and women living with breast cancer.
Breast injuries: My research into breast injuries has been in collaboration with the Australian Institute of Sport and the leading bodies in women’s contact football. We have started the translation of this research with the symposium “Breast injuries in the football codes” at the Sports Medicine Australia National conference this year. What this space!
Musculoskeletal rehabilitation and sports medicine: Although breast health research is my key focus, I am so involved in clinically orientated physiotherapy research into musculoskeletal rehabilitation and sports medicine, such as the conservative management of osteoarthritis of the hip and knee and shoulder injuries in AFL.