I am often asked by my Walnut Creek Breast Augmentation patients if breast implants will limit their athletic ability. Common questions include:
Like many questions in medicine, the answer depends on the details of your situation.
With Breast Implants size matters, and the larger the breast implant the greater the potential impact. Activities influenced include the following:
Reaching across the chest can be impacted. For San Francisco Breast Augmentation patients with AA-cup sized breasts before surgery, the change is proportionally larger than for someone who begins with B-cup breasts. The breast implants may be more noticeable when playing sports that require extreme inward rotation at the shoulder with the arm extended. Examples include golf and racket sports like tennis and racket ball. Unless the implants are quite large;howwever, most athletes adapt quickly and compensate by increasing rotation of the torso at the waist.
Lateral displacement of the breast and breast implant can also interfere with the arm's range of motion. By keeping the implant diameter less than or equal to the diameter of the native breast, the feeling that “they're in the way” can be minimized. Limiting the diameter of the breast implant is also a good way to keep the result proportional to the rest of your body. Newer implants that provide a variety of profiles have been very helpful in this area.
The additional weight of the breast implant is another factor. Women with large breasts, especially those desiring Breast Reduction Surgery, often complain of lower neck, upper back and shoulder pain. Removing breast tissue - usually several pounds - relieves these symptoms. Conversely, if too much weight is added to the breast, similar symptoms can develop. However, since the average breast implant weighs about three quarters of a pound, this problem is rare. Exercise routines that include running, jumping and bouncing may make the weight more noticeable, but with the proper support, these activities are usually well tolerated.
Increased drag may be noticed by competitive swimmers, but for the recreational athlete, little change is expected. Since most breast implants used for breast augmentation are filled with saline (salt water) or silicone (slightly less dense than water), they are essentially neutrally buoyant. In other words, implants won't make you float on your back - or sink to the bottom of the pool.
Chronic discomfort in the breast is a rare complication of Breast Augmentation. Most discomfort is associated with the Breast Surgery itself. This usually resolves over a few days to weeks. Occasionally chronic pain develops. This is more likely with larger breast implants, and may be related to stretching of the capsule around the implant. Massage to compress the implant, displacement exercises, adequate support and medication usually help, but this may require some additional time away from strenuous activity. Again, this not a common problem, but in rare cases the breast implants have to be removed or reduced in size to provide relief.
Muscle atrophy is also rare. There are no large randomized prospective clinical trials measuring upper extremity strength before and after Breast Augmentation, but anecdotal evidence suggests that weakness in the muscle is usually temporary, and is related more to the discomfort of surgery than to the presence of breast implants. Most bodybuilders elect to have their breast implants placed in front of the pectoralis major to decrease the breast implant's movement with muscle function. When these athletes pose, and forcefully flex their pectoralis muscles, their breast implants may, if placed behind the muscle, become compressed and move upwards. This is refered to as a flexion deformity. When the muscle is relaxed, the breast implants return to their normal position. This is much less apparent when the breast implants are placed in front of the muscle; however, the breast implants are more obvious in front of the muscle, as the cover of most muscle and fitness magazines will attest. There is anecdotal evidence that implants of reasonable size can be placed in the subpectoral plane without interfering with function, and many of my patients continue to enjoy exercising and weight lifting after their surgery without significant changes in their routine.
As with anything in life, too much of a good thing really is too much. Keeping the changes you desire proportional to the rest of your body will help to minimize any implact breast implants may have on your physical activities. Whether you are looking to increase your breast size, or restore lost volume after weight loss or pregnancy, Breast Augmentation can provide a satisfying outcome, with little interference with your lifestyle.
Choosing a well trained and practiced surgeon can help minimize the risks of breast augmentation. When choosing breast augmentation, it is important to seek out a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon, who is well trained and comfortable with the procedure. Ask to see representative Breast Augmentation Before and After Pictures of your chosen surgeon's patients. Ask them about their experience with patients' activity after the procedure, and when you will get “back to normal.” If you do not personally know someone who has had the surgery, many plastic surgeons can provide you with the names of their past patients, who are comfortable talking about their experiences.
Even though breast augmentation is an outpatient procedure, your surgeon should have admitting privileges at a local hospital for the rare circumstance where you might need to be admitted. Most Board Certified Plastic Surgeons are also members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), and all ASPS members must maintain hospital privileges. Board Certified Plastic Surgeons who have a special interest in Cosmetic Plastic Surgery are often also members of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), the premier Plastic Surgery Professional Society in the United States for Plastic Surgeon specializing in Cosmetic aspects of the profession. Plastic Surgeons with a more global view of Plastic Surgery may also join the Internation Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS).
Joseph A. Mele III, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Dr. Mele, served four years as chairman of the Division of Plastic Surgery at John Muir Medical Center located in the San Francisco East Bay Area city of Walnut Creek, CA. He is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and the American Board of Surgery, and is an active member numerous world renouned Plastic Surgery professional societies including: