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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.