Storying a psychologically successful return to sport experience following a concussion


Athletes returning following a concussion are deemed 'ready' after progressing through the return to sport steps. However, this process overlooks psychological factors involved in returning to sport. Guided by a constructivist philosophical position, we explored athletes' lived experiences with a concussion and their perceptions of the factors involved in feeling psychologically ready to return to sport. Participants were 12 university student-athletes (n = 6 females; n = 6 males), 19-25 years, involved in American football, artistic swimming, basketball, cycling, ice hockey, ringette, sailing, synchronized ice skating, and swimming. Participants' concussion symptoms lasted from six to 104 weeks. Athletes participated in two videoconference interviews (interview 1: M = 103 min; interview 2: M = 88 min). We identified six themes (confidence, fear, identity, pressure, support, and case-by-case) using a reflexive thematic analysis. Next, we used creative non-fiction analysis to write composite narratives. This presentation will focus on Pierre-Olivier's story; a second-year university men's ice hockey player who experienced a successful return to sport following a concussion. The opening scene depicts Pierre-Olivier driving to the arena after receiving medical clearance, reflecting on challenges during recovery and the support he received. Scene two portrays Pierre-Olivier discussing his concerns returning to sport with his coach before his first contact practice, and then competing in contact drills on the ice. The final scene depicts Pierre-Olivier's internal thoughts and interactions leading up to his first game post-concussion. Our results depict some of the psychological processes that athletes may encounter when returning to sport following a concussion.