A qualitative investigation into elite and non-elite athletes’ emotional responses to injury
University of Wales Institute Cardiff
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The present investigation examined the influence of sporting standard on athletes’ emotional responses to injury, with reference to Wiese-Bjornstal et al.’s (1998) integrated model of response and Kübler-Ross’ (1969) grief response model. Participants included seven elite and non-elite University student-athletes (males = 1, females = 6, mean age = 20.57) from various sports, who had incurred a severe injury resulting in a minimum of 21 days restriction of normal functioning or sport involvement. Data was collected using two qualitative focus groups, which were analysed using inductive and deductive content analysis, with results then compared and contrasted between the elite and non-elite athletes. Results determined that frustration, anger, jealousy, isolation, feeling down, impatient, annoyed and upset were experienced by all participants, however the situational corollaries differed based on the athletes’ sporting standard. All participants also experienced denial, although the elite athletes were quicker to accept their injuries compared to the non-elite athletes. Only the non-elite athletes saw attending training as emotionally difficult and the results did not reflect a temporal pattern of emotions that progress from negative to positive over time, as suggested by previous studies. Results generally support Wiese-Bjornstal et al.’s (1998) integrated model of response, as opposed to Kübler-Ross’ (1969) grief response model, as the results favour the notion that the injury process is an individual experience determined by both situational and personal factors, e.g. sporting standard. Applied implications of the study and recommended future research directions are offered.
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