Breasts: are they more trouble than they're worth? No — that's a rhetorical question so ridiculous that it shouldn't have even been asked in jest, and I apologize. But while knockers are a mammalian necessity, when it comes to athletics, they're often in the way, and they might even slow us down. What's a titslinger to do?
In a fascinating yet dismaying piece for ESPNw, Amanda Hess examines the Problem With Sweaterpuppies by first telling the story of Gina Carano, an MMA fighter whose widely-discussed midfight nip slip is emblematic of a fairly widespread problem for female athletes. Hess writes,
... a mounting body of evidence suggests that [breasts] pose a serious challenge in nearly all corners of competition. Gymnasts push themselves to the brink of starvation to avoid developing them. All sorts of pro athletes have ponied up thousands of dollars to surgically reduce them. For the modern athlete, the question isn't whether breasts get in the way — it's a question of how to compete around them.
"Gina Carano was an amazing fighter, and she had a fantastic rack," Rousey says of the MMA fighter-turned-actor. But then again: "You don't see big titties in the Olympics, and I think that's for a reason."
"Titties." Oof. But point taken, tittie boy. Breasts do get in the way for women trying to compete in sports — and it's amazing that more hasn't been done about it.
Anecdata time: I'm a runner. I'm not going to share my bra size with you internet perverts, but suffice to say: I am not flat chested. And after a longass run, the part of me that hurts the most isn't my legs, or my arms, or my glutes, or even my feet — it's my fucking boobs. Sports bras — even the expensive ones — tend to deal with The Problem by strapping my chest down so hard that it looks like I have a single, hurty, oval shaped breast in the middle of my sternum. It's like women's athleticwear manufacturers never bothered to learn how breasts move, or how to keep them in place without squishing them.
But it's not just lady runners who are challenged by the presence of breasts and a lack of options for keeping them at bay; gymnasts, swimmers, golfers, archers, tennis players — any athlete who relies on speed or needs to utilize the space in front of their chest to properly play their sport, really — have to work around what essentially is two water balloons strapped to their pectorals. To this day, I blame my breasts for the fact that I'm so embarrassingly shitty at golf that I pretend to hate it so no one ever asks me to play with them. My boobs are to blame at my inability to accurately shoot a bow (a surprisingly ubiquitous and useful skill when you grow up in a rural, outdoorsy part of the country with a strong hunting/fishing culture). My boobs are to blame for the fact that I am not a good sprinter. My boobs caused the housing market crash. Etc.
I don't mean to sound self-loathing here — I like my breasts except for when I'm shopping for dresses or running or worrying about getting one of the array of ladycancers that run in my family. If I ever have a child, they'll be useful. They've, uh, been enjoyed by men with whom I've had biblical relations. But it's not self-loathing to point out that sometimes they just get in the way of things that aren't maternal, sartorial or sexual.
Breasts! Can't live with 'em, can't detach 'em and hang 'em in your closet when your back starts hurting or when you just want to sleep on your goddamn stomach for a change.
Luckily, according to Hess, a burgeoning cottage industry of tits-in-motion-studying institutes are attempting to Science our way out of the Boob Problem by analyzing how breasts move, how quickly different parts of them accelerate, and how to keep their presence from throwing female athletes off. Unfortunately, because breasts change in size and density throughout the month (Woo! Hormones!), there may not be a way for athleticwear manufacturers to create a garment that is perfectly functional all the time. There's also the problem of assessing how different sized breasts move — the bigger the rack, the more complicated and difficult-to-control the movement.
In short, scientists are befuddled by gazongas. If it's any solace, your boobs — the ones that make running for the subway a painful experience — are stronger than the strongest minds in academia. But that thought won't help you break 4 hours in a marathon.