Fitness Competitors and Recalled Implants

Fitness Competitors and Recalled Implants

By Amy Hammond

Fitness Competitors and Recalled Implants








Brawn, biceps and breast augmentation (often featuring gummy bear implants): it’s the triumvirate that makes a female fitness or bodybuilder competitor a champion. Breast augmentation is an exceedingly common operation for those in the sport, as intense exercise decreases body fat and can therefore shrink cup size. Unfortunately, breast implants are not without risk, and competitors who spend their lives focused on health may be stricken with breast implant illness or even cancer (anaplastic large-cell lymphoma) as a result.


It’s not possible for anyone to ‘spot reduce,’ and that means breast size dwindles for intense exercisers. Low body fat translates to low breast tissue volume. On the fitness competition circuit, a buff silhouette set off by round, raised breasts is considered positive. Breast implants seem the natural choice, but they’re anything but natural. For some, they’re time bombs of adverse health.


It’s glaringly obvious what can happen when worst-case scenarios occur after a breast augmentation procedure. A woman may find that her biceps can be cut, the hamstrings visible, and the breast implant illness crippling. When a woman who is otherwise the picture of health experiences a multitude of symptoms, breast Implant illness has to be considered a likely cause. Stories such as Karen Monetti’s are shared in the hopes that others facing the same problems will recognize their own struggles and do something about them: namely, explant.


Before her explant surgery, Karen was an extreme exerciser. She was an exceedingly healthy, active individual. And then she developed an allergy to nearly every vegetable. Chronic symptoms arose that couldn’t be explained. Four types of parasitic infections plagued her. You can read Karen’s story in its entirety at here, but the gist of it is this: she eventually had explant surgery – and recovered. There isn’t a much better example that breast bmplant illness (BII) exists than that. 


A History of Breast Augmentation 

Where does this preoccupation with surgically morphing a woman’s chest stem from? Women have been attempting to alter their shape to meet some ‘ideal’ for more than a century – and the first inserted items were even stranger than silicone and saline. Reports dating back to the late 1800s tell of surgeons inserting strange devices into their ‘guinea pig patients.’ These items  included tumors, glass balls and even wool. The surgeries usually ended with drastic complications, as can be expected. Yet women continued to clamor for the procedure.


Fast-forward to today’s breast augmentation materials of silicone and saline – and the risks they cause – and one has to wonder when enough is enough. If women still opt for breast augmentation when certain implants have been directly linked to cancer (as is the case with Allergan BIOCELL textured implants and reported by the FDA), what is going to put a stop to the procedure? In October of 2019, the FDA released a recommendation that warning labels be included on breast implants of all kinds. Find the detailed information here.


What types of implants are women in the fitness realm choosing?

Often, gummy bear implants are prized for their ability to better resemble real breasts. While the everyday augmentation patient may select to have the implant inserted under the muscle in order to achieve an even more natural look, that can prove problematic for fitness and bodybuilding competitors. They need to develop and define their pectoral muscles. Placing the implant above the muscle allow them to do just that and to return to training soon after surgery.


It stands to reason that a serious bodybuilder will not opt for the ‘under the muscle’ approach – but a fitness competitor might. Still, as implants are not lifetime devices, they often need repair every few years and can even leak undetected. Gummy bear implants are notorious for this slow leakage. The material that earned them the moniker ‘gummy bear’ is to blame. it is thick and a leak often only shows on an MRI screen.


Leakage matters because silicone is not a natural part of the human body. The body recognizes it as a threat; that is why silicone is not advised to be directly inserted into the body as a filler. When the package that contains it (the implant) is compromised, that’s exactly what happens: the body experiences an onslaught of silicone.


The complications of such a leak are well-documented by women who have suffered breast implant illness. And though removing the implant and its capsule is all well and good, the chemicals may have already spread throughout the body.


Saline implants are believed to be safer than the silicone or gummy bear implants, but that’s not necessarily always the case. A ruptured saline implant can be a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. This bacterium can then spread throughout the body. Add to this scenario the fact that a punctured saline implant is aesthetically obvious, and it stands to reason that bodybuilders may not choose to opt for it.


Are any of the implants safer than others?

If the FDA warning of the dangers of breast is any indication, they all pose a risk to a woman’s health. As mentioned above, saline ruptures can invoke bacteria colonies to thrive. Silicone implants may rupture and spread throughout the body. And gummy bear implants, thought by some to be a panacea because of their lower chance of deflations, may prove to be the most dangerous of all. If there is a leak and you cannot detect it, you cannot act. By the time a gummy bear implant is found to have leaked, the silicone may already be well throughout a person’s body.


How prevalent are augmented breasts in the bodybuilding/fitness realm?

‘Biceps and fake boobs’ seems to be the untold motto of the fitness circuit today. Consult Maria R. Lowe’s book Women of Steel, and you’ll read the sociologist’s report that 80 percent of fitness and bodybuilding competitors opt for implants. The book was released in 1998, and it’s believed that today the number is much higher. See for yourself: Visit the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness site and scroll through the pictures of the winners. It’s mostly a pictorial representation of muscle and implants.


Different levels of competition may favor breast implanted-women more than others, but the truth is that breast implants don’t offer an edge – they’re the norm in this sport. There does seem to be some pushback from some competitors who are choosing not to undergo augmentation. Breast augmentation is a personal choice; now, with more and more risks being recognized, it stands to reason that this health-conscious realm will begin to evolve.


For a sport that personifies the adage ‘No Pain, No Gain,’ the evolution may come slowly. Health is more important than a large chest, though, and women who are flat-chested yet muscular are beautiful. Both are opinion statements. Will they become the norm? This remains to be seen.


Presented with the risks, why are fitness competitors still choosing to implant?

Fitness competitors feel the need to retain a modicum of ‘softness’ or femininity. All those hours at the gym don’t lend themselves to a ‘balanced’ silhouette; small breasts are the likely outcome when one is lifting heavy weights regularly.


The question we as a society must ask is this: Why do fitness competitors still have this vision of the ‘ideal woman’ as large breasted? Until the sport and society at large recognizes the female silhouette as beautiful and buff no matter the bra size, women will continue to force foreign implants into the body to achieve their desired look. Can’t we all just agree that women who exercise long and hard most likely will not have large breasts? Is this really that much of a stretch of the imagination?


According to, the pressure for these athletes to go under the knife is intense, but success is possible even without breast implants. Podium finishes can be achieved without silicone or saline.  Learn more about breast augmentation in the sport of women’s bodybuilding and fitness in this comprehensive PledgeSports blog here.


What should I do if I have symptoms of breast implant illness?

Are you a fitness or bodybuilding competitor who believes she may be experiencing symptoms of breast implant illness? The symptoms vary widely, and can include brain fog, depression, rapid heartbeat, chronic fatigue, infertility and more. Visit to view a list of symptoms and to learn more about the movement to educate women worldwide about breast implant illness. If you are experiencing symptoms of anaplastic large-cell lymphoma, which may include swelling, fatigue and more, contact your physician immediately. This cancer of the immune system has high survival rates, but it’s very important to explant as soon as possible.


Certain textured breast implants that demonstrate a link to this type of cancer have been recalled. And they’re a type of implant favored by fitness and bodybuilding competitors for their ability to ‘stay put’ in the chest. These implants are the Allergan BIOCELL textured implants and expanders, and FDA information about these and their dangers can be found here. 


Where can I find more resources regarding augmentation, explant and breast implant risk?

If you believe women should not undergo breast implant surgery in order to succeed in professional bodybuilding or you are considering augmentation or explant, we’d like to hear from you. Please contact The Heal is Real  – and visit our site for additional resources and information.