An international tennis star has made headlines not for her serve but for disclosing her decision to undergo breast reduction surgery, not only to help improve her game, she said, but for relief from severe back pain.
Simona Halep, 21, went from a 34DD to a 34C.
“I think she really caused a breakthrough, where all of a sudden this was not a taboo topic,” said Megan Greenwell, senior editor at ESPN magazine. “When you see people at the highest levels talking openly about these things that opens the floodgates for other people to discuss it as a real issue.”
And it’s not only professional athletes going under the knife to reduce breast size. Carly Mortensen, 19, plays collegiate softball, and decided to have her bust reduced surgically.
“It just felt uncomfortable for me because I had to wear two sports bras every time,” Mortensen said.
“It was emotionally pretty tough. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be happy with it. If this would help me in life and be a bonus for softball then it’d definitely be worth it.”
More than 100,000 women had similar surgeries last year — some of them, experts say, do it to play sports, according to Cosmetic Surgery National Data Bank statistics.
“We are tending to a lot more young patients who realize there’s a surgery out there that can help them, help them feel better and help them become more athletic,” said Dr. Michelle Spring, a plastic surgeon, told ABC News.
But not all female athletes support the idea. Former South African volleyball star Alena Schurkova — also a 34DD – criticized Halep after she had surgery, telling the British newspaper The Sun that the surgery sent a message that well-endowed girls “can’t play sports, and that is just wrong.”
But just how much can breast reduction enhance one’s game? After the surgery, Halep climbed 450 spots in world rankings. She’s now ranked number 18.
“I think it’s definitely helped my play because a lot of it comes from mentally being more confident in myself,” she said.
Halep says she’s looking forward to this softball season, when she takes the field for her first official game.