Australian Football, Masculinity, and the Acceptance of Pain and Injury as a Career "Norm"

By Deborah Agnew and Murray J. N. Drummond.

Published by The International Journal of Sport and Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: July 30, 2015 Free Download

Playing in pain and with an injury is common in sport. Players are socialised early to accept pain and injury as a career norm, and male athletes who are unwilling to conform to this norm risk having their masculinity questioned. Such is the dominance of injury normalisation in sport; in retirement, many athletes perceive themselves to have been “lucky” to escape permanent injury despite experiencing long-term pain or discomfort. This was a qualitative research project which utilised a social constructionist and life history perspective. 20 retired Australian footballers took part in semi-structured interviews regarding their perceptions of pain, masculinity, and careers as elite Australian footballers and the consequences in retirement after having played in pain. The data was thematically analysed with three themes emerging; playing in pain, masking the pain, and living in pain. The denial of pain both during careers and in retirement is a common occurrence; therefore, in order to improve the quality of life post-career, the tolerance of pain and injury as a normal career expectation needs to be challenged. Much of the research into contact sports and pain has been conducted in Rugby; thus, this research is significant as the pain experiences of retired Australian footballers with regard to the construction of masculinity are largely unknown.

Keywords: Australian Football, Masculinity, Pain, Injury, Sport Retirement

The International Journal of Sport and Society: Annual Review, Volume 6, pp.9-23. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: July 30, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 471.554KB)).

Dr. Deborah Agnew

Lecturer in Sport, Health, and Physical Activity, School of Education, Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Prof. Murray J. N. Drummond

Professor, School of Education, Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia