Balancing a fine line: Decision-making by sub-elite athletes about playing through pain: A focused ethnography of gymnasts, rowers and speed skaters
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Aim: To explore the factors associated with sub-elite athletes playing through pain in gymnastics, rowing and speed skating. Methods: Five coaches, four athletes and three rehabilitation specialists were studied. Athletes were photographed during a practice before a competition and semi-structured interviews were conducted with all of the participants after that competition. Photographs were used for photo-elicitation during the interviews. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and thematic analysis followed using NVivo™ software. Results: Sub-elite athletes hold much of the control as to whether they keep playing through their pain or not. Three main themes related to playing through pain were identified. They are: “Listening to Your Body”, “Decision Making” and “Who Decides”. Conclusion: When sub-elite athletes play through their pain, performance is affected in the short term and long-term consequences are possible. This study provides some insight into the contrasting forces that athletes balance as they decide to continue or to stop.