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‘Losing 2kg off your chest makes a difference’

June 6th, 2024

Watching England lock Rosie Galligan being lifted high in the air during a line-out in this year’s Women Six Nations, you would never know what nearly got in the way of her rugby career: her boobs.

Six years ago, aged 20, Galligan had breast reduction surgery that took her from a size 32HH to a 32DD. It was a huge decision for such a young athlete but one she says made her international career possible.

“Losing 2kg off your chest does make a difference,” the Saracens second row told BBC Sport.

“If I didn’t have my reduction, I don’t think I’d be where I am today. Both on a confidence and physical level.”

At the time of the surgery, Galligan was at the start of her international rugby career, having broken into the England under-20 team. However, her breasts were already causing her discomfort and she knew that could affect her future as an elite athlete.

“One of the main reasons I had a breast reduction was simply because of the back and neck ache,” she said. “It would have caused me more issues further down the line.

“I was having to wear two heavy-duty sports bras. When running it felt like they were compact – I didn’t feel any pain, it was more a case of them getting in the way. I used to run like a T-Rex, holding my boobs in – I just ran with no arms.

“I was always having to dress sizes up just to get tops over my chest. I just felt really uncomfortable, I felt so big. The feeling of being uncomfortable in your own body is never nice.”

‘This is actually a mega surgery’

Rosie Galligan touching hands with a fan on the walk into a game
Galligan made her Test debut against Ireland during the 2019 Six Nations [Getty Images]

Breast reduction surgery is usually carried out under general anaesthetic and takes around two to three hours. It involves removing excess fat, glandular tissue and skin from the breast, then moving the nipple to its new position before reshaping the breast.

Some parents may be reluctant to see their daughter go through such a procedure but Galligan’s mum Holly had undergone a reduction herself, which Galligan said made her decision to go ahead with the surgery easier.

Recovery from the operation took six weeks, with Galligan then flying to Canada on tour with the England under-20 side.

“My first run post-surgery felt so light, like I could jump and actually move my body,” she said. “I genuinely felt like I was a new person. Just being able to wear one bra I could stand taller and was as light as a feather.”

But she was not fully open with her coaches about the surgery because of the taboos of the subject, something she now regrets .

“You’re meant to build yourself back into it gradually but I didn’t feel I had that time,” she said. “I thought I’d be fit to go play international rugby again but I did my back in in the first scrum because I hadn’t prepared my body for the demands of rugby.

“I could have been more open with the staff and allowed them to help me.”

Galligan, now 26, says it was only when watching a documentary earlier this year that showed exactly what happens during a reduction surgery that she realised how complex the procedure is.

“Seeing it actually happen on TV, I was like ‘whoa, this is actually a mega surgery’,” she said.

“I didn’t realise how much my body had been through in order to get to where I am now. It isn’t a little surgery, so much happens in order for them to be able to do it.”

‘I’ve embraced my boob journey’

Galligan’s international career has been hit by setbacks. She had to miss three years of rugby after contracting meningitis in 2019, then suffered a serious ankle injury in 2020.

However, since returning to the top of her game, she has gone on to play 14 times for England, winning two Six Nations Grand Slams and a World Cup runners-up medal.

Her next target is a spot in the 2025 World Cup squad.

“Having the reduction is definitely one of the best things that’s happened for my sporting career and it’s definitely helped me get to where I am today,” she said.

“I’ve embraced my boob journey, it’s something that’s now part of my sporting journey.”

Back in 2018 she didn’t tell many people she was having the procedure but now wants to use her platform to help others in the same situation and to promote breast health.

“Me being able to share a little snippet of my life has helped a few other girls who I know,” she said. “I’ve had conversations with girls in the rugby world, I’ve shown them pictures and been quite open.

“If I can go on to play for my country and represent England at the highest level, why would I not try to share that with other people?”

Galligan is set to feature for Saracens in the Premiership Women’s Rugby semi-final against Bristol Bears on Sunday. In the other semi-final, Gloucester-Hartpury take on Exeter Chiefs in a match being streamed live on the BBC Sport website and app.

This content was originally sourced and posted at Yahoo! Sports – News, Scores, Standings, Rumors, Fantasy Games »
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