Exploring the role of self-compassion in women athletes' emotionally painful experiences of injury in sport
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Injury is a common and emotionally painful aspect of sport participation for female athletes. Playing through injury is normalized in sport culture; unfortunately, this practice holds short- and long-term health risks. Self-compassion has been endorsed as a resource for female athletes coping with injury and is purported to result in better health-related choices. The purpose of this study was to explore the role of self-compassion in competitive women athletes’ self-care behaviours following emotionally painful experiences of injury. Participants were 159 female athletes ranging in age from 18-49 years who completed an online survey. Five measures of emotional pain were used: negative affect, threat appraisal, badness rating, emotional difficulty, and a composite score comprised of the previous four measures. Self-compassion was negatively related to negative affect (r = -.26, p < .01), threat appraisal (r = -.19, p < .05), and the emotional pain composite score (r = -.18, p < .05) but not to badness rating or emotional difficulty rating. Self-compassion did not contribute unique variance, beyond self-esteem and athletic identity, in the emotional pain measures. The emotional pain composite score was negatively related to self-compassionate reactions (r = -.23, p < .01), positive reactions (r = -.30, p < .01), and perseverant reactions (r = -.16, p < .05) and positively related to ruminative reactions (r = .54, p < .01), passive reactions (r = .24, p < .01), and self-critical reactions (r = .48, p < .01). Unexpectedly, emotional pain was positively correlated with stopping training (r = .34, p < .01), reduced training frequency (r = .33, p < .01), reduced training intensity (r = .27, p < .01), and reduced training duration (r = .33, p < .01) and not significantly related to responsible reactions or stopping the session in which the injury was incurred. Neither self-compassion nor fear of self-compassion moderated the relationship between emotional pain and self-care behaviours. Participants also completed an open-ended question in which they described in detail everything they did to care for their injuries. A codebook was developed and used to analyze the responses. Self-care behaviours fell into the following categories: diagnostics, rest, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, treatment, and training accommodations. Athletes reported using an average of 3.38 self-care behaviours - most commonly describing obtaining a medical diagnosis and undergoing treatment. Self-compassion was not related to the number of self-care behaviours used by participants or the use of any individual behaviour. Overall, the results suggest that self-compassion plays a role in women athletes’ injury experiences; however, likely due to the complex and multifaceted nature of injury, the relationships might not manifest in perfect concordance with theoretical conceptualizations.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
SupervisorKowalski, Kent C.
CommitteeFerguson, Leah J.; Erlandson, Marta C.; Dorsch, Kim D.
Copyright DateAugust 2015