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‘I hurt myself because it sometimes helps’: former athletes’ embodied emotion responses to abuse using self-injury


McMahon, JA and McGannon, KR, I hurt myself because it sometimes helps': former athletes' embodied emotion responses to abuse using self-injury, Sport, Education and Society pp. 1-15. ISSN 1470-1243 (2019) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

DOI: doi:10.1080/13573322.2019.1702940


In this paper, narrative analysis using a story analyst approach is used to explore how three former athletes (i.e. amateur and elite swimmers) selfmanaged their abuse experiences post-sport with a focus on the use, and meaning, of ‘indirect self-injury’ forms. Using the concept of ‘emotion work’, the swimmers’ stories show how they reconfigured the emotions associated with the legacy of abuse by using indirect selfinjury (e.g. eating disorder; abuse of prescription medications; excessive alcohol use; promiscuity) as embodied resources, after they were left to fend for themselves post-sport. As acquired resources within their selfstories, indirect forms of self-injury assisted them to reconfigure the trauma of abuse into something that was more manageable (i.e. ‘emotion work’). While ‘emotion work’ was storied as successful for the three swimmers in the short term, the potential long-term health consequences of self-injury (i.e. kidney disease; liver damage; unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, death) were imminent. These findings highlight the need for sporting stakeholders to extend their duty of care to athletes, particularly abused athletes, post-sport.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:self-harm, self-management strategies, emotion work, narrative analysis, athletes, sport, embodiment, abuse
Research Division:Psychology
Research Group:Applied and developmental psychology
Research Field:Applied and developmental psychology not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Specific population health (excl. Indigenous health)
Objective Field:Specific population health (excl. Indigenous health) not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:McMahon, JA (Dr Jennifer McMahon)
ID Code:136510
Year Published:2019
Web of Science® Times Cited:3
Deposited By:Education
Deposited On:2020-01-03
Last Modified:2020-06-23

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