A narrative review of qualitative evidence of athletes' lived experiences following a sport-related concussion


There now exists a significant body of research evidence describing athletes' lived experiences with sport-related concussion (SRC). The aim of this narrative review was to summarize this growing body of evidence and provide some methodological suggestions for future qualitative work in this domain. We searched PsycINFO, Embase, MedLine, SportDiscus, and Web of Science to identify studies related to athletes' lived experiences during recovery and return to sport following SRC. We included peer-reviewed original qualitative studies, and the qualitative component of mixed methods studies. Our initial search identified 2489 records and we determined that 34 records matched our inclusion criteria following a full-text review. Thirty were original qualitative studies and four were the qualitative portion of a mixed methods study. Participants in the studies were high school, university, or professional athletes and were mostly involved in contact and collision sports such as ice hockey and football. Twenty-five of the 31 studies used individual or focus group interviews as the sole method of data collection. Results from the included studies highlighted the types of physical, psychological, and social challenges experienced by athletes. Physical concerns included SRC symptoms such as headaches, psychological concerns included emotional turmoil, and social concerns included isolation from their team. Our review underscores a need for researchers to explore other sports known to be associated with SRC (artistic swimming, cheerleading) that are often not included in SRC research. Additionally, we encourage researchers to use a greater variety of qualitative approaches (methodologies, methods) to explore athletes' lived experiences with SRC.