Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Exercise and Sport Sciences

Major Professor

Craig A. Wrisberg

Committee Members

Lars Dzikus, Jeffrey T. Fairbrother, Howard R. Pollio


A career-ending injury is an event that causes the involuntary termination of an athlete‟s participation in his or her chosen sport. Over the last decade, research has focused on injury and career transition; however little was known about athletes‟ experience of career-ending injury. The purpose of this study was to obtain in-depth descriptions of the lived experience of athletes who have had a career-ending injury. Using an existential phenomenological approach, the focus of the study was on the athletes‟ own perceptions of this experience.

The participants were thirteen male and female former athletes representing a number of different sports. Using a purposeful, snowball sampling technique, participants were identified and interviews were conducted. The thematic structure derived from the interviews contained five major themes, which emerged within the ground, “Love of Sports.” They included: “Your Life is Never the Same: Now, Before, & After;” “Something is Ripped from You: Loss of Identity, Strength, & Other People;” “It Still Hurts: Pain, Anger, Depression, & Fear;” “It Wasn‟t Really My Choice: Denial & False Hope;” and “Nobody Else Knows What You‟re Going Through: Difficult Relationships, Misunderstandings, & Unconditional Support.”

The results extend the current research in sport injury and career transition and suggest that a career-ending injury is one of the most difficult transition experiences an athlete can face. For the participants in this study their final injury was a life altering experience that represented a critical turning point in their lives. The pervasiveness of their pain extended far beyond the initial injury and was only one of the long-lasting effects of their career-ending experience.

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