Would you allow your teenage daughter to get breast reduction surgery in order to excel at sports? Sounds a bit extreme, right? But I am not sure it is as extreme as it is practical.
There are currently more than 112,000 breast reduction surgeries done each year. More and more young female athletes are deciding to have their breasts reduced surgically in order to enhance their performance in sports, but even more importantly to feel comfortable with their own bodies. Who can argue with that? Not me.
Recently, Good Morning America featured the growing trend among professional athletes — such as Romanian tennis player Simona Halep, and teen female athletes alike — to get breast reduction surgery. Halep openly admitted to having a breast reduction operation three years ago to reduce her size 34 DD breasts down to a size 34 C in order to help improve her game play — and more importantly, allow her to feel better in her own skin. Due to severe back pain, which usually accompanies large breasts, Halep said she would have had the surgery regardless if it improved her game or not. It seems that her 450 spot jump in world rankings was just a happy side effect.
According to Dr. Stuart Linder, Beverly Hills board certified plastic surgeon and breast reduction specialist, this kind of surgery is becoming more common in teens.
“We are seeing younger patients having breast reduction surgery for athletic reasons, which have included young gymnasts as well as baseball, soccer and basketball intramural activities,” he said. “These patients present with difficulty in playing sports, due to the enormous size of the breast, leading to problems with severe back pain, neck strain as well as difficulty wearing uniforms during sports.”
Conflicts and consequences
As a mother, I am conflicted. On one hand, it is an invasive surgery. Breasts continue to grow into our 20s so there is a possibility that a young woman could get the surgery and in a few years, need another one. On the other hand, if it is something that she has thought through and it will help her to feel better in her own skin and perform better at a sport that might be her passion, is it my place to say no? I don’t think so.
My job is to make sure that she is well informed about all the possible consequences and support her in her decision.
“The effects psychologically and physically must be weighed with the possibility of further breast tissue growth up to the mid-20s, as well as the scarring and possibility of loss of sensitivity and/or lactation [and] breastfeeding from a breast reduction procedure,” says Dr. Linder.
As a woman who is naturally well-endowed, I will be the first to tell you that yes, large breasts are cumbersome on an athletic level. They are awkward and in the way most of the time. They get in the way when you are trying to swing a bat, a racket, a golf club or hockey/lacrosse stick and sometimes it feels like there is a target on them during matches. Large breasts make a woman more susceptible to back injuries because of all that weight up front causing back strain. Acute back pain can bench an athlete because you could very well become immobile from a spastic back.
Breasts are not global property
The bottom line is that it isn’t anyone’s business except for the young woman getting the surgery whether or not she gets a reduction. Breasts are not global property. It’s not my business and especially not someone who doesn’t even have breasts to tell a young lady what to do with her own body. This is a common theme throughout history. A man has every right to alter his physique to have a competitive edge but there is a double standard when it comes to our girls.
When it comes to women, the world embraces the double standard, because first and foremost we believe that women are here to complement men and by reducing our breasts we are reneging on our part of the bargain. That’s not what I want for my daughter.
I think most people think of plastic surgery as purely cosmetic — but wouldn’t you allow your child to get cosmetic surgery if you knew it could make them feel better in their own skin? What if other kids were bullying them because of a perceived flaw? Where do we draw the line?