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"A sisterhood of those who bear the mark of of pain" : female competitive soccer players talk about risk, pain and injury Griffin, Meridith

Abstract

This study examines how females with distinct life histories and social backgrounds (but shared experiences as competitive athletes) interpret sport-related pain, risk, and injury. The research was guided by the following research questions: What kind of perspectives do competitive female soccer players have toward pain, risk and injury? Are differences in sport-related socialization related to different social experiences with and/or understandings of pain and injury? Are varying types and strengths of social support networks related to different kinds of pain and injury expression, or different social experiences of pain and injury? An oral narrative approach (Reissman, 1993) was used to interview twelve female competitive soccer players from Vancouver area soccer teams who had sustained a relatively severe or debilitating injury. Each athlete was asked to participate in two interviews. These athletes were asked (a) about their injury "story;" (b) about their early and continual socialization into the sport; and (c) to identify and describe the role of influential figures throughout their sporting participation. In general, athletes used a combination of narrative styles when describing their injury experience—with the most prominent and pervasive being a "restoration to health and fitness" narrative. Other prominent narratives included a "hopelessness" narrative (within which athletes expressed their frustration and lack of control over the injury), and a "hope" narrative (within which athletes spoke of becoming more aware of their bodies and their limitations through the experience of injury). Interviewed athletes also described how the injury led to a disruption of their identity/self, and how they developed new perspectives on risk-taking because of their injury experience. Also, athletes suggested a practical application of a "pain club" (or support group) for similarly injured competitive athletes. These findings have theoretical implications for understanding how athletes make sense of their bodies and their injuries, and practical implications for how injuries may be attenuated and more thoroughly addressed. These findings also speak to the power of socialization into a competitive sport culture, resulting in a deep submersion within an athletic identity for these athletes.

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