The Suffering Body in Sport: Volume 12

Cover of The Suffering Body in Sport

Shifting Thresholds of Pain, Risk and Injury

Subject:

Table of contents

(14 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xi
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Introduction

Pages 1-3
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Purpose

The aim of this chapter is to examine and problematize the taken-for-granted conceptual understanding of risk practices in sport cultures. By inspecting the mainstay, and one might argue relatively stagnant, constructions of risk in the sociological study of sport, a case for attending to a wider range of risk-based ideologies and cultural practices is presented. The chapter ventures away from viewing risk as predominantly physical in sport settings and constructing athletes as oppressed agents who naively acquiesce to practices of self-injury and self-alienation in sport cultures. Emphasis is given to a broad spectrum of risks undertaken in the practice of sport, and the reflexive, personal nature by which risk may be understood by sports and physical culture participants.

Approach

In the first part of the chapter, the relatively simplistic or unidimensional construction of risk in sociological research in sport is reviewed. In the second part, the complexity of the concept of risk is then discussed alongside case examples that push the analytical boundaries of how risk is a multidimensional construct of athletes’ minds, bodies, selves, beliefs, values, and identities in a host of relational contexts.

Findings

Risk is best understood as a set of practices and belief that exists on a continuum in sport and physical cultures. Risk-taking in sport, however, can be personally injurious and detrimental along a number of lines but is also often calculated, personally/group satisfying and existentially rewarding at times. If the concept of risk is to be applied and interrogated in sport and physical cultures, it should be done so, therefore, in radically contextual manners.

Implications

This chapter illustrates the need for new and exploratory theoretical understandings of what risk means to athletes and other participants in sport and physical culture. New substantive topics are proposed, as are methodological suggestions for representations of the unfolding risk in the process of “doing” sport.

Purpose

This chapter draws upon the sociological concept of rationalization to explore the role and practice of sports medicine. It highlights attempts by the profession to create a rationalized model of health care for sports participants – particularly those involved in high-performance sports settings and the enabling and constraining elements of its enactment.

Approach

The chapter explains how changes in the organization of sports medicine have dovetailed with the increasing rationalization of sport which has been significant in enacting changes in sports medicine that are aligned with a more rationalized model of care.

Findings

Key findings from the literature highlight the difficulties of implementing rationalized health care policy into practice. Specifically, the chapter examines macro-organizational changes to the structure of sports medicine and the extent to which sports medicine represents a rationalized model of health care by virtue of micro-organizational constraints.

Implications

While the discussion draws upon a breadth of research by sociologists of sport who have examined sports medicine practices, the chapter draws heavily on the UK model of sports medicine care in high-performance sport and thus the conclusions may not be wholly transferable to non-UK and non-sports contexts.

Purpose

The hegemony of neoliberal rhetoric in Western societies places an increasing emphasis on an individual’s ability to negotiate risk. The purpose of this chapter is to better understand how – within this cultural context – voluntary risk-takers think about the significance of their potentially dangerous practices. My specific focus is the Chicago parkour community. Parkour is a new lifestyle sport in which practitioners use features of the urban environment (e.g., stairwells and retaining walls) as obstacles on which to climb, jump, run and vault.

Approach

Data for this project were derived from four years of participant-observation within the Chicago parkour community and semi-structured interviews with 40 participants.

Findings

I argue that the dangers encountered while practicing parkour are given social significance through the interplay of what I call rites of risk and rituals of symbolic safety. These rites and rituals provide a meaningful framework for activities that represent a threat to the self (e.g., performing a jump in which a mistake could be fatal). Further, I contrast my findings with the notion of edgework (which highlights the death-defying aspects of an activity). Members of the Chicago parkour community often downplayed the physical perils involved in their sport to highlight safety protocols. In this sense, parkour practitioners are less like “edgeworkers” and more like “hedgeworkers” – symbolically demonstrating protections taken against uncertainly (i.e., hedging one’s bets).

Implications

Like all ethnographic studies of a single field site, there are limits to generalizability. Future research should explore the connections between hedgework and other voluntary risk-taking activities (in and outside of lifestyle sports).

Purpose

To explore the sociology of sport-related pain through an autoethnographic focus on the contiguous, 20-year participation of one professional athlete at the Ironman Triathlon World Championships in Kona, Hawaii; to address the “well heeded, long-standing and vociferous calls ‘to bring the body back in to social theory’” (Hockey & Collinson, 2007, p. 2) by allowing authorial reflection on the negotiations of pain during those decades of elite competition.

Approach

Negotiated sports pain is explored as the subject/author allows visceral memory over a two-decade arc of professional-level participation at the Ironman. The ethnographic study is a combination of self-reflection, phenomenology, supportive and correlative theory, and detailed peripheral aspects of one elite athlete as he discusses the roles, levels, types, applications, and meanings of pain during the training and racing of the Ironman Triathlon World Championships. Allowances are made for reflective and subjective narratives in service of introducing sensorial elements to this area of the sociology of pain.

Findings

This chapter addresses several calls for a focus on the “practical experiences of the body” (Wainwright & Turner, 2006, p. 238) or what Hockey and Collinson (2007) call the “lacking (of) a more ‘fleshy’ perspective, a ‘carnal sociology’ (Crossley, 1995) of sport.” The details provided by the author/athlete offer a more personal and intimate view of how sports pain is negotiated over the arc of two decades of high-level competition. A sometimes brutally honest and objective self-reflection reveals the inner workings of a professional athlete turned college professor as he reflects on the multiplicity of roles that pain served and played during his 20 years at the Ironman World Triathlon Championships.

Implications

With a dearth of “embodied” studies on the sociology of sports-related pain, particularly by elite athletes who lived much of their youth in a physical culture that requires the near-constant negotiation of pain, this chapter provides a deep inside-out look at one case with its sensorial, phenomenological, and temporal insight to pain management.

Purpose

The intent of this chapter is to examine the historical and present-day intersections of injury, impairment, pain and risk-taking in the Paralympic Movement. While much has been written about injuries that end an athlete’s career, far less consideration has been given to how an injury might launch a sports career. In this chapter, I explore the experiences of athletes for whom injury and sports participation are fundamentally entwined.

Approach

To accomplish this, I draw on sociological literature on sport and injury, psychological literature on identities and sport retirement and feminist disability theories. The discussion is further enriched by interviews with Paralympic athletes and informed by own experience as a researcher, guide and volunteer in the Paralympic Movement.

Findings

This work illustrates how systems of representation intersect to (re)produce identities. This includes demonstrating how some individuals use sport as a means of claiming an athletic identity while distancing themselves from devalued disabled identities and the subsequent impact this can have on their psycho-social well-being.

Implications

This chapter demonstrates how sociologists of sports can engage with critical disability scholarship to deepen understandings of how and why individuals with impairments enter into sport and their experiences therein.

Purpose

To examine the ways in which sports-related brain injury (concussion and subconcussion) is both similar to and different from other injuries and to set out a sociological understanding of the injury, its manifestation and management.

Approach

There is a broad contextualization of the ‘issue’ of concussion and the processes that have brought this to the fore, an examination of the ways in which concussion has been figuratively clouded from plain view, and an outline of the main contributions of the social sciences to understanding this injury – the culture of risk and the mediating effect of social relationships. The chapter concludes by questioning whether the emergence of concerns over chronic traumatic encephalopathy has stimulated a fundamental change in attitudes towards sport injuries, and if this has had a significant impact on the social visibility of concussion.

Findings

The two available sociological studies of the lived experiences of concussion are situated within a broader analysis of the politicization of sports medicine and the emergence of a particular social discourse around sports-related brain injury.

Implications

The difficulties emanating from the dominance of a biomedical approach to concussion are discussed along with the need for further research, incorporating a more holistic view of concussion, as a bio-psycho-social phenomenon.

Purpose

To explore the discursive construction of disordered eating and athlete identity meanings within elite female athlete’s stories. Published athlete autobiographies were interrogated as cultural sites of analysis to accomplish this aim.

Approach

A critical social constructionist perspective on disordered eating is outlined along with narrative research findings on female athletes and disordered eating. A discursive psychological approach and critical discourse analysis (CDA) is then discussed to theorize and study meanings of disordered eating and athlete identities/subject positions. Next, the utility of studying two elite female athlete’s autobiographies is outlined followed by examples from a CDA of two athlete stories.

Findings

Two discourses and two identity/subject positions within each are outlined: discourse of performance and the “committed, controlled athlete” and a discourse of personal growth and the “empowered athlete in transition.” The features of each discourse and subject position are outlined and examples from each athlete’s story. The intention is to show the ways in which discursive resources construct the body, food and identities in sport and the implications.

Implications

The chapter is concluded with why studying “disordered eating and body talk” within discourses is useful to expand understanding of constraining and emancipative aspects of athlete identities, struggle and recovery.

Suffering in Sport

Pages 121-140
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Purpose

To explore what suffering is, how suffering is embedded within the sociology of sport literature, and what suffering can do to athletes in sport. In addition, to discuss the value of an interdisciplinary approach and co-presence when researching athletes in suffering.

Approach

In the first part of the chapter, the concepts of pain, violence, and suffering are separated, and a justification for the study of suffering in sport is given. The second part of the chapter details sport and social problems, and the suffering body in sport is discussed, pulling from interdisciplinary theories and methodologies of suffering external to the sociology of sport.

Findings

Social inequalities and hidden forms of suffering may be reproduced in sport. Sport is questioned as a force of social mobility for vulnerable people. The context of sport can offer ‘healing’ properties for people in suffering. The impact of using an interdisciplinary approach and considering co-presence and relational suffering when researching suffering is discussed.

Implications

The difficulties understanding the complex, multi-dimensional nature of suffering are shared. New ways of engaging within the research act and specific theoretical approaches are suggested for improving the understanding of suffering within sport.

Purpose

It is unclear from Canadian case law what the appropriate legal standards of care and regulation should be in athlete injury cases. This chapter provides an overview of existing legal standards and explores the question of participant liability in sport, especially ice hockey. It reviews the applicability of tort law, including both intentional torts and unintentional torts, and considers the applicability and impact of the notion of ‘volenti non fit injuria’ (or voluntary assumption of risk).

Approach

The chapter is based on a review of Canadian case law.

Findings

Canadian courts have adopted varying standards whereby it is seemingly easier to prove negligence in certain provinces than others. We discuss the implications of these conflicting jurisdictional standards and the need for clearer and more consistent legal guidelines. Further, we show why appropriate legal standards should extend beyond purely objective and legalistic interpretations to more subjective and sociological factors that place sports violence and sports injury in social context.

Purpose

To discuss the regulation of professional wrestling in the USA in order to explore how the business of professional wrestling is regulated and deregulated.

Approach

Using desk-based research, the regulation and deregulation of professional wrestling will be explored.

Findings

The regulation of professional wrestling in the USA is inconsistent. The extent of regulation and deregulation of professional wrestling is dependent on the state in which the event takes place. Whether regulated or deregulated, professional wrestling is a painful, risky and injurious business wherein the economic health and well-being of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) corporation, and the location in which events take place, take precedence over the health and well-being of working sports participants.

Implications

The research is limited to sports participants working in the dominant, visible and therefore arguably most accountable professional wrestling corporation in the USA. Implication of the research is that a more in-depth investigation into the utility of regulation is needed. Additionally, it raises concerns regarding the potential hidden work-related premature deaths, harms and injuries in other promotions in the USA and beyond.

Purpose

To examine the relationship that athletes establish with their bodies within sport and through their transitions out of sport, with a special focus on risk, injury and pain.

Approach

This chapter is an explanatory review of the literature focusing on the embodied and sensory experiences of athletes as they depart sport.

Findings

This chapter explores definitions and conceptualizations of the retirement process, highlights how the body is experienced during the sporting exit (as fragile and out of control) and makes connections between how bodily breakdown during sporting exits impacts an athlete’s sense of self and identity.

Implications

Through practical recommendations, this chapter highlights some of the ways in which psycho-education and an expanded focus on the body could be useful to athletes as they attempt to reconcile their new lives and bodies post-sport.

Index

Pages 195-202
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Cover of The Suffering Body in Sport
DOI
10.1108/S1476-2854201912
Publication date
2019-07-24
Book series
Research in the Sociology of Sport
Editor
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78756-069-7
eISBN
978-1-78756-068-0
Book series ISSN
1476-2854