The experience of breast pain (mastalgia) in female runners of the 2012 London Marathon and its effect on exercise behaviour

Br J Sports Med. 2014 Feb;48(4):320-5. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2013-092175. Epub 2013 Apr 19.


Background: For female marathon runners, breast pain (mastalgia) may be an important issue which has yet to be considered. This study aimed to determine the prevalence and severity of mastalgia in female marathon runners, identify factors that increase mastalgia and methods used to overcome mastalgia, and explore the impact that mastalgia may have on marathon training.

Methods: 1397 female marathon runners were surveyed at the 2012 London Marathon Registration. All participants who completed the four-part, 30-question survey in its entirety have been included in the analysis (n=1285).

Results: 32% of participants experienced mastalgia. This was significantly related to cup size and was greater during vigorous compared with moderate physical activity. Exercise-related factors were the primary factors reported to increase mastalgia participation. Seventeen per cent of symptomatic participants reported that mastalgia affected their exercise behaviour. Methods reportedly used to overcome mastalgia included pain medication and firm breast support; however, 44% of participants took no measures to relieve symptoms despite over half describing their mastalgia as discomforting.

Conclusions: Mastalgia was experienced by a third of marathon runners and was found to be related to breast size which has previously been unreported. The link between exercise and mastalgia has yet to be established; however, this study identified that exercise was the most prevalent factor in mastalgia occurrence which may have implications for its management. The number of participants who took no measures to relieve their mastalgia, or resorted to pain medication, highlights the importance and significance of research into exercise-related mastalgia.

Keywords: Running; Sporting injuries; Women in sport.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health
  • Clothing
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • London
  • Mastodynia / etiology*
  • Mastodynia / physiopathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Running / physiology*
  • Running / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology