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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The rebalancing act : women's experiences of psychological well-being during serious sport injury Trainor, Lisa Raquel


Sport injury is a stressful event because it poses threats to an athlete’s physical, emotional, and social well-being (Heil, 1993), which manifests cognitively, emotionally, and behaviourally (Brewer, 2007). There is also much to be gained from the sport injury experience (Tracey, 2003). There has been little attention given to athletes’ psychological well-being (PWB) during injury recovery. PWB is defined as “living well or actualizing one’s true potentials” (Deci & Ryan, 2001, p.2). A thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews with 12 currently seriously injured women varsity athletes (out of sport for 21+ days) was employed to explore their perceptions and experiences of PWB during sport injury recovery. Four main themes were identified. Firstly, my life is chaos and out of control: participants perceived sport injury to trigger an identity crisis and a sense of loss, leaving them feeling overwhelmed and stagnant in pursuit of their athletic goals. Secondly, pressures shaping response to sport injury: sport culture was a dominant pressure, which included participants pushing through and normalizing pain and injury. As well participants’ fears and anxiety perpetuated their negative emotional appraisals of injury, and social support was only perceived as valuable if it came from someone with personal injury experience. Thirdly, maybe I can: adaptation from the disruption sport injury: adaptation included a process of resisting and accepting, expanding the self, rebalancing, and gaining awareness. At the crux of adaptation was rebalancing oneself to enter a state of equilibrium, harmonizing PWB. Moreover, participants perceived sport and global PWB to collide, where both played a large role in one another. However, it was identified that global PWB is the foundation of one’s PWB. Finally, sport injury growth: after reappraisal participants identified sport injury as a learning experience, resilience and triumph, and having a greater appreciation for sport and health. Findings suggest that sport injury is can initially hinder one’s PWB, however once one can rebalance their PWB sport injury is perceived as a positive event that can lead to sport injury growth. These findings could help further our understanding of injured athletes’ experiences of PWB and how athletes could be better supported.

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