Collinson, J (2005) 'Emotions, Interaction and the Injured Sporting Body', in International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 48 (2): 221 - 40.
This study emerges from considering the work on the importance of emotions and emotional labour, and the work on sports injuries and their social and emotional aspects [with a useful range of references, 221 -- 2]. There is also an interest in developing autoethnographic work on the emotions and on sporting injuries. There is a connection because emotions are often felt physically, as bodily sensations, and they enter into interaction, especially between injured persons and others. This study is based on the author's recollections and logs, and her discussion of what was happening with her running partner, who was also keeping a log.
These accounts are traced to a number of contexts [including some substantial theoretical work such as that of Goffman on impression management and the self, and considerable work on women's sports, gender, sports injuries and so on]. The author describes herself as 'a woman, a distance runner, and a feminist sociologist' (223), and it is clear that being a runner or having a running body is an important part of her experience and herself. She describes her commitments as similar to that of serious leisure . One theme that emerges, however, is that gender differences seem to be of minor significance. It is not simply that women runners have to adopt a male stance to sport, risk-taking, or injury, but that the experiences of men and women seem broadly similar.
Autoethnography is explained and defended pages 224 -- 5. It emerges as a reaction to realist conceptions of validity and their assumptions about researchers and knowledge. It is used as a technique to extend 'knowledge of wider cultural or sub cultural aspects, while avoiding solipsism' (224). It offers phenomenological experience of an activity. Many sports people have used the technique to explain the meaning of sporting and physical activity. The idea is to 'show the reader of the pain and emotions experienced, rather than merely to tell what these things meant' (225). This sort of personal writing has led to accusations of irrationality and subjectivity, but it is particularly useful to explain private experiences, especially if such experiences are subsequently analysed [in true ethnographic style, the importance of the emotions only emerged, as a kind of surprise ]
Both runners kept logs recording their experiences at the time, and also kept a joint log. They checked the validity of each other's accounts, noting any occasions where they could not achieve 'analytic reconciliation' (225).
The reactions included recognizing that the pain of injury offers something unusual compared to the normal and even positive pain of athletic endeavour which must be routinely overcome. Injury pain produces anxiety and frustration, in the injured person and in their supporters.
Injury also requires a response, including a decision about whether to use medical assistance. Both runners worked with physiotherapists initially , but lost faith in their prescriptions and resolved to develop their own recovery programme. The accounts mentions a number of critical incidents where such lost faith emerged. One reaction was anger, covered by a need to manage the interaction politely. Apparently, frustration and anger at the medics is common with injured sportspersons.
Their anger made them determined to develop their own rehabilitation. One aspect of this was to maintain their diet and control over their bodies, so they could hang on to some aspects of their self image and self presentation as runners. They also began to objectify their bodies or the affected parts, much as do medical personnel. The mind-body split can therefore be of assistance. Their own programme also produced frequent setbacks and a new outbreak of 'fear, anger, despair' (230), requiring continual management. A good deal of emotional labour is required -- 'the management of feelings in "private" interactional contexts with my training partner' (232). Sometimes, partners had different emotional states according to their individual progress, but became aware of the need to manage positive emotions so as not to compound the feelings of the other. Emotions had to be both repressed and expressed, acted out as well as faked for the benefit of the other. Both attempted to empathise with the other, sometimes relying upon 'our own "emotion memories"... in relation to previous injuries' (233) [here and elsewhere, extracts from their logs are cited as illustrations, occasionally interspersed with quotes from theorists such as Goffman]. Sometimes, the participants had to emphasise the distance between themselves 'in order to avoid over identification' (234 ) Such emotional work is demanding, but also satisfying, and similar for both genders. The similarity may be produced by a shared experience of running itself.
The concept of liminality is useful in explaining the experience overall -- 'involving a transition from a secular to as sacred condition or vice versa... an ambiguous uncertain state wherein an individual is caught in time (and often space) between a previous status and a new status yet to be attained' (235). There was a need to explain their decline from important identity of an athlete. This helps them see that sports injuries can be quite dramatic in their effects on identity. Injury can isolate and alienate. Emotional support and interactions seemed to be important in this case, especially 'the construction of narratives centred upon the injuries, rehabilitation, and athletic careers in general' (236). The sharing of the spectrum of emotions seem to be important, and this might be applicable to any communication between injured athletes and the sports medicine team more broadly. Emotional support seems to be an important part of rehabilitation.