Psychosocial readings of encounters with pain in sport

  • Author / Creator
    Lock, Rebecca Ann
  • This thesis examines how female athletes relate to and interpret their experiences of pain. Starting from the position that the meaning of pain is not given but is interpreted, this thesis takes as its central question: what compels athletes to interpret their pain in the ways that they do? Previous sociological research argues that athletes accept pain, risk, and injury because they have become normalized aspects of sport. In contrast, this thesis explores the specific individual ways athletes find traction with the normalized practice of tolerating pain in sport. Drawing on the in-depth unstructured and semi-structured interviews I conducted with female athletes, I primarily turn to Kleinian psychoanalytic thought to read how these athletes relate to their pain and the discourses on pain they discuss. In particular, I consider how they psychically manage the difficult aspects of their pain experiences in the process of narrating them. Taking the interview conversation as a site of the social workings of pain, I analyze how the listener has a bearing on how the interviewees interpret and express their pain. In focusing on pain (rather than pain, risk, and injury) this research endeavors to hold onto the complexity and diversity of pain, as well as the full complexity of the athlete as a subject who interprets her experiences both consciously and unconsciously. On the basis of this research I suggest that an ethical response to athletes’ pain may not always entail trying to prevent or reduce this pain. Instead, I argue that it may be more important to acknowledge what is difficult about pain, which varies for different subjects. For some the difficulty of pain is what it signifies, for others what is difficult is acknowledging one’s own relation to pain or having one’s relation to pain acknowledged by others, and for others still, the pain may be unavoidable, and so what is at stake is not whether pain is suffered but how it is negotiated. Finally, I suggest we need to develop how sociologists understand processes of normalization, to account for the complex ways athletes may wittingly engage in experiences of pain.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Sociology
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Rosenberg, Sharon (Sociology)
    • Shogan, Debra (Physical Education and Recreation)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • jan jagodzinski (Secondary Education)
    • Deborah Britzman (Education, York University)
    • Amy Kaler (Sociology)
    • Donald Kuiken (Psychology)
    • Susanne Luhmann (Women's Studies)