University of Limerick
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Contact breast injuries among female athletes: a systematic review

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Background Robust surveillance of injury aetiology and epidemiology is recognised as fundamental for efective injury reduction and management programmes. However, while sex-specifc diferences in injury type and nature are noted in the literature, it is unclear if these are refected in surveillance practices, and how the athlete is afected.

Objective Therefore, this study aimed to systematically review contact breast injuries (CBIs) among adult female athletes.

Methods The following databases were searched: PubMed, EMBASE, SPORTDiscus including MEDLINE, Web of Science and Scopus. The literature search was conducted in May 2023 and the search was limited to articles in the English and German language. Studies including female athletes, aged 18 years and above, in any sports (team or individual) at any level (amateur, semi-professional and professional), where an occurrence of CBI was documented were included. Studies were included irrespective of their investigated timeframes (e.g. the whole career, one or multiple seasons). Findings were categorised (e.g. sport, level of competition and investigated timeframe of the study) to enable possible comparisons. Case studies were excluded due to the non-generalisability of fndings.

Results Of the six studies included, rugby codes (rugby union, rugby league and rugby sevens) had the highest occurrence rate (62.0%) of CBIs among eight diferent investigated sports (rugby codes 62.0%, softball 59.5%, Australian Football League (AFL) 51.0%, water polo 50.0%, soccer 46.7%, basketball 27.6–48.8%, volleyball 34.6%, boxing 0.0%). Between 25.6% and 62.0% of participants reported incurring a CBI and between 0.0% and 42.9% of CBIs were reported to a medical professional or support staf. The reported treatment rate for CBIs ranged between 0.0% and 2.1%, The main mechanisms for CBIs (where reported) were contact with another athlete (AFL 37.6%, rugby codes 56%) the ball (AFL 31.6%, rugby codes 25.5%) and the ground (AFL 6.6%, rugby codes 22%). Between 18.2% and 48% of the participants reported that CBIs negatively afected their performance. Risk factors increasing CBIs were positional diferences, larger breast size and higher body mass index (BMI). In-season injury data collection and surveillance supported through education of both players and medical staf were identifed to be of relevance for future CBI prevention. None of the studies reported incidence rate.

Conclusion Despite the frequent occurrence of CBIs among female athletes, reporting and treatment remains low. Awareness and education of all stakeholders are fundamental to ensuring better breast safety in female sport. Identifying the mechanics, severity and risk factors of CBIs through thorough injury surveillance must be a focus of further research.



Sports Medicine, 2024



Other Funding information

Open Access funding provided by the IReL Consortium. The authors of this review are in receipt of funding from the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) for elements of this research. The funders had no input in the review process or writin

Also affiliated with

  • LERO - The Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software
  • Health Research Institute (HRI)

Department or School

  • Allied Health
  • Physical Education and Sports Science
  • Mathematics & Statistics

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