UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

"Whatever works best for the athlete" : the use and experience of complementary and alternative medicine among elite female athletes Bundon, Andrea Marie


This study examined how carded female members of Canadian national teams used and perceived Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). The research was guided by the following question: How do elite Canadian female athletes use Complementary and Alternative Medicine? Additionally, the research was infonned by three subsidiary questions, namely: (1) How do they perceive and experience CAM?; (2) Why do they use/not-use CAM?; (3) What roles do they perceive CAM to play in their athletic development?; and (4) How is the use of CAM negotiated within existing sport structures? Using qualitative research methods, 12 female athletes were interviewed twice using a semi-structured interview format for a total of 22.5 hours. The athletes were questioned about their first experiences of using CAM and the situations that lead them to explore new treatments. The athletes were also asked about their continued use ofCAM and the reasons for the ongoing treatments as well as the role they perceived CAM and CAM practitioners to have in their athletic careers. Previously, the extant literature concerning CAM use among athletes indicated that 56% of varsity athletes used CAM although this research gave no indication as to the frequency with which CAM treatments were utilized. The women in my study reported that, when carded, they used CAM treatments extensively and frequently (from two appointments a month up to two appointments a day). At the same time, the women in this project revealed that their ability to access services was highly contingent on their status as carded athletes and the associated monthly stipend from Sport Canada. Within different sports organization, gendered, and hegemonic hierarchies further delimited access to CAM. My findings suggest that while injury may have been the impetus for the first treatment, the ongoing use of CAM was more closely associated with an effort to prevent chronic conditions and physical imbalances from escalating and thereby restricting their ability to fully participate in their sport. These findings have theoretical implications for expanding our understanding of the value CAM holds for those who use it. The data also bridge the gap between the existing literature which has examined the influence of the sportsnet on an athlete’s belief, attitudes, and actions, and research into rates CAM utilization in special populations. Finally, this project reveals that elite female athletes perceive CAM to be an essential part of their athletic training.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International