Friday Weird Science: The Bra Strap Injury

Aug 31 2012 Published by under Friday Weird Science

Sci is dealing with some personal stuff right now, and can't post today. I offer up this repost as a piece of glory from the early days, all the way back in 2009! 🙂

Every once in a while, when I look at the lit, I'm truly amazed by the things people report in. This one didn't even need any playing with the title. It's just too good.

ResearchBlogging.org Rose, et al. "The bra-strap injury: should men have lessons?" British Journal of Plastic Surgery, 2001.

This post shall otherwise be known as "Sci's explanation on how to get off a girl's bra while avoiding possible pain and injury. It even works through a sweater."


Surprisingly, this post took a LOT of research for me. I suppose to make "bra-strap injury" sound a little bit better, the authors took it upon themselves to use every long anatomy term they could get their hands on. Sci may know her neurophysiology, but my grad boss would not let me sit in on medical anatomy, no matter how much Sci pleaded. I can't really blame them, the medical anatomy course is three months of straight 8-hour days in class and dissection. Plus studying. I can imagine Sci's advisor would not want his grad student out of commission that long. I still live in hope of some day taking the course. Yeah, I'm a total geek. I know. But how COOL would it be?! And then I would be able to teach anatomy! Sigh...

Anyway, I had to look up a lot of stuff. But you won't, because I am going to define all the long terms, and, where possible, provide pictures for your edification.

Basically, this is a case report describing the case of a 27-year-old male who is going to get jeered at by his friends for the rest of his life. At least, he will if he ever admits what exactly happened to his hand. The guy (right-handed) came in to the doctor with pain in his left middle finger. Although the doctors had "difficulty" getting the history of the injury out of him, it finally came out that

the damage had occurred the previous night at the culmination of a convivial and alcoholic evening with an attractive female companion. Whilst attempting, in the throes of passion, to undo her bra...

*snort* Hehehehehehe...I didn't even WRITE that. It's in the paper! Heh. LOL. Ok. I'm done. Anyway, I do hope the "convivial" evening ended well for the poor guy, injury not withstanding, and that he at least got a second date out of the deal. So basically, the guy is trying to remove his lady's bra. For some reason, he gets his left middle finger caught between the double straps "extending inferiorly from the acromion to the left breast". Basically, right here:

WHY he had his hand THERE to take off her bra, I will never know. Perhaps he lacked a certain amount of previous experience. Or perhaps he got tangled. Or perhaps it was a VERY strange bra. We'll probably never know. But, for all you males who may lack previous experience out there, Sci is going to be nice and give you all a lesson.

Sci's Four Easy Steps to Painless Bra Removal
1) Find the bra closure. In most cases, this is in the center of the back. In some cases (you lucky things) it will be in the center of the front.

2) If it is in the center of the back, the closure will be hook-and-eye. Looks like this:

3) Now it depends on breast size, and bra strength, and this will determine how much strength you need to put into the sucker. If she's a perky lady of smaller dimensions, there may be only one or two hooks. If she's more than a handful or so, there may be three hooks, and if you're dealing with someone very well-endowed, there will be up to five.

4) For 1-2 hooks, you can use one hand. For more than that, you may want to use two. In the one-handed scenario, reach around, take the two sides of the closure, pinch together, and pull. This should release the hook and eye. For the stronger closures, two hands can be used to pinch together and separate the hooks from the eyes.

A note on front closures: These are relatively rare, but at least you get to work with something you're probably looking right at (unless, of course, you are looking romantically in her eyes. Of course you are). These CAN come in the hook and eye version like the back closure, but it's rare. Usually, they come with a kind of slot closure. Looks like this:

What you want to do here is take two hands, one on each side of the closure, pinch in. One side will go up, and the other will go down, and the bra will open. If nothing moves the first time, switch directions.

So as you can see from the above instruction manual, there should be NO reason whatsover for you to be tangling with the straps reach inferiorly from the acromion. The whole bra should come off just fine if you take it by the tops of the shoulders. Or even from the closure at the back. Yet again we wonder why this guy screwed up so incredibly badly...

And in the process of screwing up, the guy suffered an injury, and a pretty bad one, sustaining a "forced ulnar abduction rotatory injury of the proximal interphalangeal joint" of his left middle finger.

Riiiiight. Basically, what this means is that he injured the joint in between the first two segments of the finger, right here:

And this wasn't just twisting or pulling. He tore the whole ligament. Had to have plastic surgery to repair it, go to therapy, and didn't regain function for 6 weeks. All because of a bra strap.

Most injuries to this joint are "work-related", though seeing what I've seen of sports, I wouldn't be surprised if some were also basketball-or-other-sport related. Like rugby. Though there it would be a minor injury indeed. But in the "throes of passion" this injury was probably preventable, though the authors noted

In view of the considerable enjoyment associated with the initial damage, and the minor nature of the long-term sequelae, the patient considered that the injury was worth it.

I bet it was. But the authors also note that as many as 40% of men in their 20s and 30s have noted difficulty in removing a bra. They then advocate "patient self-education (during the adolescent years) on the mechanism of external female mammary support". Heh. But really, 40%! And are you saying "difficulty", as in it takes more than 15 seconds and she starts giggling? Or "difficulty" as in injury? If you're all injuring yourself on bra-straps, you really DO need some education.

Ok, boys, you know what to do. It's time to go out, take turns putting bras on your friends, and get some experience! Alternatively, you can just follow my instruction manual. Either way, be careful, it's a tough world of "external mammary support" out there. Approach with caution, after all, you might pull something.

V ROSE, D MOLONEY, A FLEMING (2002). The bra-strap injury: should men have lessons? British Journal of Plastic Surgery, 55 (2), 179-180 DOI: 10.1054/bjps.2001.3751

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