Breast Augmentation in athletes is more common than one might think. Many of our patients in Chicago are athletes, and they want to know more about breast augmentation surgery. Breast implants can be placed either in the plane immediately under the breast (subglandular implants) or a deeper plane beneath the pectoralis major muscle (subpectoral implants). The pectoralis muscle is the main muscle that you activate when you do a pushup or a bench press. There are several advantages to placing implants beneath the pectoral muscle that are discussed in detail in another blog in this series and in the breast augmentation section of my website. The key advantages are a more natural contour in the upper portion of the breast, easier-to-obtain mammograms, and possibly softer implants over the long term.
Many sports and athletic activities require the use of the pec muscles, so it is natural that athletes would want to make sure that a breast implant would not interfere with muscle function. There are two potential concerns. The first is that the presence of the implant under the muscle would be uncomfortable or affect athletic performance. The second is that the release of the pectoral muscle’s attachment at its lower border, a necessary step in the operation to keep the implant from riding into an unnaturally high position, would alter the physical performance of the muscle.
Many of my patients are competitive skiers, tennis players, and swimmers, sports that require the optimum function of the pec muscles. These patients tell me there is residual soreness and stiffness for a period of one to three months after the surgery, but that they have not experienced any long-term diminishment of their athletic performance.
There is a simple reason why the function of the pec muscle is not compromised over the long term with breast augmentation surgery. Only the lower attachments of the muscle are released in the area beneath the lower portions of the breast. The pec muscle is quite large. It covers the entire chest from the clavicle (collar bone) to the lower edge of the breast. The most powerful fibers of the pec muscle are in its upper portion, so a release along its lower border does not seem to have any long-term noticeable effect.
Please remember that there is a period of one month after breast augmentation surgery where you can do light activity, such as walking, but you will not be able to actively work out the pec muscles. During that month you will not be able to swim, lift weights, or swing a racquet. After that, you will gradually build up your performance to your previous level. Depending on the pattern of your recovery and your specific sport, it may take two or three months to return to your optimum level of performance. If you are an elite-level athlete, please give yourself adequate time before you engage in high-level competition.
For patients who are generally fit but who do not compete at a high level in sports, you will be able to ease back into your previous athletic routine after a month has passed from the date of your surgery. In another blog in this series, I go into more detail about lighter athletic activities that you can participate in during the first month after surgery.
There are several specific sports where you may want to consider the option of having me place the implant above the pec muscle. These are discussed in part 2 of this blog.