Background Distance running is one of the most popular sports among children and adolescents around the world. Previous adult- and adolescent-based research indicates that injury is prevalent when participating in distance running. While knowledge related to the extent of the injury problem is important, an understanding of athletes’ psychosocial responses to running-related injury (RRI), applying a qualitative lens of inquiry, is frequently overlooked.
Objective To investigate the psychosocial responses to ‘serious RRI’ (>28 days–6 months of time loss) in competitive adolescent distance runners in England.
Design Semi-structured interviews to facilitate a reflexive thematic analysis (deductive/latent) related to psychosocial responses to serious RRI.
Setting Competitive adolescent distance runners (i.e., 800 m to 10,000 m, including steeplechase) in England.
Patients (or Participants) Distance runners (13–18 y) were invited to participate if they had sustained a serious RRI within the previous 12-months, as self-reported via an online survey as part of a previous study. A total of 113 athletes completed the online survey, whereby 34 of these athletes had sustained at least one serious RRI.
Results Nineteen competitive adolescent distance runners were interviewed about their experiences of serious RRI, focussing on their response to and subsequent recovery from serious RRI. Based on a reflexive thematic analysis, three themes were developed: (1) performance uncertainty, (2) injury (mis)management, and (3) contested identity. These three themes were found to support a number of theoretical relationships proposed in Wiese-Bjornstal et al. (1998) integrated model of response to sport injury, alongside other previous research findings. In turn, each theme contributed towards an overarching understanding that serious RRI acts to destabilise the athletic identity of competitive adolescent distance runners, as a psychosocial recovery outcome.
Conclusions These findings will support the development of measures that aim to improve how competitive adolescent distance runners respond to RRI.
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