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Athletic identity – or an autoethnography of almost losing a leg

Staci Zavattaro (Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Mississippi State University, Starkville, Mississippi, USA)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 4 November 2014




The purpose of this paper is to use autoethnography to explore notions of self-identity formation and projection. The author uses the stages of grief as an analytical tool to explain athletic identity formation and personal effects when an injury removed that part of her self.


The paper uses autoethnography, a self-reflective, qualitative methodology meant to engage the researcher's personal experience, which then is potentially adapted and understood by others in similar situations. Autoethnography might pair personal research with existing analytical frameworks and theories, as this story does.


–The author realized that losing, even temporarily, self-identifying characteristics (here, athletic identity) affects self-esteem, social interactions, and future motion-based endeavors, for fear of starting the cycle of grief again.


The paper is valuable, as many people are “weekend warrior” athletes that identity as a runner, cyclist, triathlete, weight lifter, or general gymgoer. Someone might sustain an injury that leaves him or her feeling similar to the author – and can help them understand the importance of athletic identity. The paper also shows how a well-known framework, stages of grief, can be used not solely as an explanatory tool but an analytical one as well.



Zavattaro, S. (2014), "Athletic identity – or an autoethnography of almost losing a leg", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 272-288.



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