Unintended consequences of breast augmentation may affect athletic performance

My knee doesn’t fit under my chest…


While practicing yoga, I was going from down dog into a low lunge, a maneuver nearly identical to a slow-motion pop-up. Instead of bringing my knee straight through from back to front, I was swinging it slightly out to the side, avoiding my breasts. 

I was missing about two inches of clearance between my knee and my chest. Given the extra space I would be able to bring my knee straight forward. Without the necessary space, I had to compensate by swinging my knee wide and rounding my back for a little extra room.

There are plenty of large chested surfers out there, but my implants don’t swing like natural breast might. And on my particular frame, they seem to be in the way of my pop up.


My breast augmentation seems to be in my way

Bent over surfing
I’m rounding my back on take off, attempting to make more space for my knee under my chest. Taking an extra second to get to my feet means missing the best part of the wave.


The combo of long legs and breast implants is costing me a split second on my pop up. And it’s making a significant impact on the quality of my surfing.

Over the last couple of years, surfing has become who I am. Improving my surfing is the mechanism for growing into the best version of myself. And yet it is the most frustrating thing I’ve ever done. To think I may have elected to do something to my body which worsens my surfing is devastating.


My Story: The Athletic Body Type

My body was built for athletics: broad shoulders, thick arms, muscular butt, long legs and flat chest. While muscular butts have gone in and out of vogue throughout the years, my teenage years were not one of those times.

Growing up in the ’90s, I didn’t know female athletes and I certainly never saw women in situations where they could showcase their muscle. My religious upbringing forbids showing too much skin. Feeling pride in an athletic body was never modeled for me. I never felt comfortable in my own skin. In my early 20’s I opted for breast augmentation.


Breast Augmentation

To be honest, with my new shape, the world was a much happier place to live in. Everything seemed easier as an “attractive” female in my 20’s rather than the athletic, tomboy teenager I had been.  Looking back, I’m sure it was my new confidence more so than the actual shape of my body that made my life easier.


Maybe my body knew best all along?

My younger self was just doing the best she could at the moment she made the decision to have a figure altering surgery. She didn’t make a mistake, she simply acted with the information she had at the time. And my current self sees a lesson in this. This body is way smarter than my mind wants to admit. This body is made up of trillions of cells each with their own individual consciousness.

Female Football Players
At 18 I joined the National Women’s Football Association. I’ve always been a larger-framed athletic person.


This body, in its infinite wisdom, shaped me to be an athlete. Something I love about myself now. Sadly, it took me 20 years to come to appreciate it.

But now I’m up against a limitation of my own creation. So what will I do?

I’m hoping it is correctable, the pop up that is. To be completely honest I like my breast augmentation. I suppose if I could just snap my fingers and switch back to my younger body I might do it. But another surgery? Cost, rehab time, incisions…and going back to flat chested? I don’t have any desire for those things.


A question of identity

Who am I? A beautiful woman? A good athlete? Actually, that’s the problem. I believe I’m a part of something so much bigger than this body. My true identity exists outside of my human body.

All of this is going to go away. And for me, that reality strikes close to home for more reasons than one.


Breast Cancer

I have a genetic mutation called BRCA1 that makes me highly susceptible to breast cancer. The doctors have told me that I’m 65-80% likely to get breast cancer one day. Many other young women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 opt to have a preventative surgery where 100% of their natural breast tissue is removed. These aren’t very good gambling odds. 

My doctor told me these women have an average of 3.5 surgeries. I follow some of these “pre-vivors” on Instagram. They are brave enough to post pictures of the fluid drains they have to wear externally and bathing suit photos of their new “foobs”. The entire process can take years of giving up athletic activities. Even with implants, most women never get their shape back exactly. They are honest about their devastating loss and their new found hope. These women opt to figure altering surgeries so they can ensure long full lives with the people they love.


A friendly surf or a competitive one, we get a choice.


I don’t know what I will do. I’m supposed to decide in the next five years. My boobs are in my way. I kinda wish I never had them, the real or the fake ones. I wish this whole problem would just disappear. But it won’t, and I have to make some adult decisions. I don’t know what I will do.


Additional Surgeries

Another consideration, especially for athletes who perform impact sports, is that breast augmentation has a limited life span. I’m nearing the 10-year mark and I’m due for corrective surgery. Having taken lots of serious beating out in the surf one of my implants has slipped “out of the pocket” and now sits lower and more to the side than the other one. My plastic surgeon agreed with me that the damage was likely caused while surfing.

My plastic surgeon agreed with me that the damage was likely caused while surfing.”

But going under the knife to have it corrected will cost me more than just money, I’ll also have to take significant time out of the water and away from work. I never considered this when I first got my implants.


Autoimmune Diseases

There is some anecdotal evidence pointing to the possibility that breast implants cause autoimmune diseases. And this makes logical sense. There is a foreign object in my body. So my body wants to attack it, provoking an autoimmune response. I personally have suffered from IBS, Hashimoto’s and PCOS (all types of autoimmune disorders) since getting my implants. I don’t know if they are linked. As an athlete, these conditions have been the cause of a lot of difficult training days.


Breast Augmentation for Athletes

My body is a gift which I get to steward. For the last 34 years, I’ve done the best I can. I try to eat healthy, rest well, and train hard. But I also try to enjoy my body. One of the ways I enjoy my body is feeling confident in my own skin, another is surfing.

Would I recommend another athlete get breast implants? My answer is that it is a very individual decision that each person has to make for themselves. I did it. I am happy with my result. And yes, I believe it has had a slightly negative effect on my surfing. But I will also say that I do not regret my decision. Although now, 10 years and a hell of a lot more confidence later, I doubt if I would make the same call. That is my experience. I support whatever anyone wants to do with their own body.

I am a writer and wanna-be big wave surfer. Surfing is my muse. I write about it and how it’s teaching me to live better. I hold certification as a nutritionist, personal trainer, yoga instructor, and lifeguard instructor. My story “100 Days in Mexico” of how a solo road trip surfing my way through Mexico changed my life can be found here www.melanielainewilliams.com


  1. Hi Melanie,
    I too, decided to get implants after a long struggle with my body image (after having 3 children). Fast forward to falling in love with surfing at the age of 50! I train very hard to be good at this challenging demanding activity. I avoid things that keep me out of the water. I know I am at the timeline mark to replace them, or remove them altogether. I feel they are in the way when I train and surf. I have wrestled with possibly going smaller- but that would mean a longer recovery and more surgery down the road. Any insight? Read your message and I identified with it. Thanks!

    • Yes, I too am facing the choice to have them removed or replaced. It is a tough one. But my partner loves me no matter what and I am way more confident in my body. I’m leaning toward ex-plant….we shall see

  2. Thank you so much for your honesty and openness. As a member of the itty bitty titty committee I too have struggled with this issue. I’m now in my late forties and still a AA cup and have thought about breast implants in the past but have always decided against them incase they affected my surfing. I had a friend who got implants and said that they definitely affected her surfing, mainly in the muscles around her chest area being not as effective. ‘
    It’s so good that you talk openly and honestly about real life topics, we need this. I’m finally at a point in my life where I am starting to not just accept but embrace my body as it it, because like you said in your article “My true identity exists outside of my human body”.

    • YES! The more I have developed personally the more I have learned “I am not my body” and the less I care about how I appear. I’m glad I made the choice I did in my 20’s but not sure I would make it again. good for you for accepting yourself no matter what!

  3. No problem MacKenzie, thank you for reaching out to us. We have removed that image. Apologies, I thought you were a friend of Mel’s. Wishing you all the best x

  4. So glad I was happy and confident with my small breasted athletic body when I was young . And now I am over 50 still happy. I only wear a bra for morale support not much else and love it that way.

    • Yes! Athletic body, full figured, or down right big, it is all beautiful! thanks for loving yourself and showing the younger woman that all bodies are beautiful!


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