A Narrative Approach to Understanding Psychological Stories of Overuse Injuries Among Long-Distance Runners

Abstract

The integrated model of psychological responses to sport injuries provides a theoretical framework wherein personal factors, such as injury type, are presumed to influence athletes’ psychological responses to, and recoveries from, sports injuries. For example, athletes with overuse injuries may respond differently than athletes with acute injuries because overuse injuries often have unclear starting points and unpredictable recoveries. The psychological responses of athletes to overuse injuries, however, have received little research attention even though many coaches and sports medicine providers could benefit from such knowledge. In this case, we sought to address this gap in the research literature by investigating the experiences of athletes with overuse injuries, specifically long-distance runners, by means of a narrative methodology. A narrative methodology involves a systematic, qualitative approach that allows researchers to capture a comprehensive picture of an individual’s experience through story telling. This approach has been used in health research to capture people’s experiences with illnesses and catastrophic injuries; however, it is rarely used in sports medicine psychology research. Elliot Mishler’s core narrative approach, as previously adapted by Stephen Brock and Douglas Kleiber for use with athletes, served as the framework for data collection and data analysis. Reflections on the usefulness of this methodology for such an investigation, as well as the challenges and lessons learned through such a research process, are described in this case.

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