Women’s participation in sports, particularly contact sports like Rugby Union and AFL, is reaching new heights globally. However, the safety and protection of female athletes have often been overlooked, with most protective gear being designed primarily for male athletes. This gender disparity has led to higher injury rates among female athletes due to ill-fitting gear and inadequate safety standards that do not consider the unique anatomical differences of the female body. In this blog post, we’ll explore how Fempro Armour, an Australian company dedicated to women’s safety in sports, is addressing this issue with their groundbreaking protective armour, and how they’ve received support from Bond University (Rugby), Southport Sharks (AFL), and ARM Hub, a leading robotics and AI company, to bring this innovative product to the market.
The Problem: Underreported and Unaddressed Female Athlete Injuries
Shockingly, almost 60 percent of female athletes have experienced a previous breast injury, yet a staggering 90 percent of them never reported these injuries to anyone. This alarming statistic underscores the urgent need for specialized protective gear designed specifically for female athletes. Stephanie Bofinger, the founder and CEO of Fempro Armour, recognized this gap and set out to create a solution.
Fempro Armour’s Innovative Solution
Fempro Armour has developed a prototype armour that incorporates patented impact absorption technology to spread and reduce the force of hits to vulnerable areas of the female body, including the back, ribs, chest, and shoulders. Unlike any other product currently on the market, this armour has been meticulously designed based on extensive research into common injuries sustained by female athletes. It’s a significant departure from the ‘pink it and shrink it’ approach that has been taken in the past.
Stephanie Bofinger, a former athlete herself, is deeply committed to reducing both short and long-term injuries among female athletes and improving their overall safety in contact sports. She noted, “The risk of injury for female athletes, especially in contact sports, is unacceptably high due to ill-fitting protective gear and under-researched safety standards that do not account for the anatomical differences in the female body.”
Fempro Armour’s technology utilizes a network of interconnected air pockets that compress upon impact to absorb energy. This groundbreaking system offers superior impact absorption compared to traditional foam padding, providing female athletes with the protection they deserve while maintaining breathability, moisture-wicking properties, and a lightweight design.
Testing and Certification
Before bringing their revolutionary product to market, Fempro Armour is committed to rigorous testing and certification. Notably, the armour will be the only European Certified product available for female Rugby Union athletes. This certification means that the armour has been thoroughly tested, approved, and surpasses European safety standards, setting a new benchmark for safety in women’s sports.
Bond University’s & Southport Sharks Role in Advancing Female Athlete Safety
Bond University and Southport Sharks known for its excellence in women’s rugby & AFL, has partnered with Fempro Armour to support the development and introduction of this game-changing technology to the market. Elite athletes from both organisations played a crucial role in testing the Fempro Armour prototype during their 2023 Rugby Union & AFL Season. Their feedback and input will help Fempro Armour refine the design to ensure maximum protection and comfort for female athletes before the public release.
Zoe Hanna, a Bond University Bull Sharks Rugby Union player and recipient of the prestigious John Eales Rugby Excellence Scholarship, expressed her excitement about this tailored protection, stating, “Stephanie and her team are creating something that isn’t just a ‘pink it and shrink it’ version of men’s gear. It’s designed by women, for women, with our specific needs in mind.”
Professor Alan Patching, who struck a partnership with Fempro Armour after hearing Stephanie Bofinger’s vision at a Bond University event in 2022, emphasized the importance of this innovation, saying, “We are excited and proud to be supporting the development of this innovative and important protective gear for women rugby players the world over.”
The Road Ahead
Fempro Armour aims to release the world’s first commercially available female-specific protective sports gear for Rugby Union and AFL athletes next year, with plans to expand into additional sports. This represents a significant step forward in enhancing the safety and well-being of female athletes and addressing the longstanding issue of inadequate protective gear.
The journey of Fempro Armour from inception to development highlights the pressing need for specialized protective gear for female athletes and the dedication of individuals like Stephanie Bofinger to make a difference. With the support of Bond University, Southport Sharks and ARM Hub, Fempro Armour is poised to revolutionize women’s safety in sports, ensuring that female athletes can participate fully in the sports they love with confidence in their safety. This groundbreaking innovation has the potential to change the game for women’s contact sports, setting new standards for safety and protection in the field. We are looking forward to the official release, as we anticipate a future where female athletes receive the same level of protection and consideration as their male counterparts, marking a significant milestone in the history of women in sports.