Changes to breast structure and function across a woman's lifespan: Implications for managing and modeling female breast injuries

Publication Name

Clinical Biomechanics


Background: Female breasts change throughout a woman's life in response to fluctuating hormonal influences. Individuals managing active women and those modeling female breasts must understand these structural and functional changes across a female's lifespan because these changes affect breast injuries sustained by women. Methods: We initially review female breast structure and function and then describe how breast structure changes across a woman's lifespan. Key studies about direct contact and frictional breast injuries are then summarized. Limitations of current breast injury research, gaps in knowledge about breast injuries incurred by specific populations, and the lack of breast injury models are also highlighted. Findings: With minimal anatomical protection, it is unsurprising that breast injuries occur. Although research about breast injuries is scant, direct contact during blunt force trauma to the anterior chest wall and frictional breast injuries have been reported. There is a lack, however, of research documenting the incidence and severity of breast injuries incurred in occupational settings and in women's sports. Therefore, to design effective breast protective equipment, we recommend research to model and investigate the mechanisms and forces involved in breast injuries, particularly injuries sustained during sport. Interpretation: This unique review summarizes how female breasts change over a woman's life span, with implications for breast injuries sustained by females. Knowledge gaps about female breast injuries are highlighted. We conclude by recommending research required to develop evidence-based strategies to improve how we classify, prevent, and clinically manage breast injuries sustained by females. We review changes to the breast across a woman's lifespan, highlighting implications for managing and modeling female breast injuries.

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