An examination of post-traumatic growth in Canadian and American ParaSport athletes with acquired spinal cord injury


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Abstract

Objectives:The study was guided by two research questions: (1) Does participation in ParaSport following acquired spinal cord injury (SCI) influence people's perceptions of post traumatic growth (PTG)? (2) What specific dimensions of PTG, if any, do ParaSport athletes report experiencing?Design:A phenomenological approach was adopted to understand ParaSport athletes' perceptions and experiences of PTG and sport participation following acquired SCI.Method:Twelve participants with acquired SCI who integrated, reintegrated, or attempted to integrate into sport completed a survey and participated in a semi-structured interview to assess their perceptions of acquired SCI, involvement in ParaSport, and PTG.Results:Five general dimensions of growth emerged from the data including: (a) injury relevant processing; (b) appreciation for life; (c) reactive behavior as a result of attempted integration into ParaSport; (d) relating to others and (e) health and well-being. Participants reported increased physical functioning and independence related to their involvement in sport. Emotional and psychological gains were also associated with ParaSport including re-establishment of self-identity, improved clarity and perception of life, changed priorities, greater confidence, and enhanced social relationships.Conclusions:Participation in ParaSport following acquired SCI may provide physical, emotional, and psychological health benefits, which should be considered in the development and implementation of sport related interventions to encourage PTG. Clinicians and rehabilitation specialists may use information from the present study to help individuals improve their identity, build relationships, and develop an appreciation for life after incurring a SCI.Highlights:ParaSport may help with the re-establishment of identity following SCI.Confidence, physical health, and independence were perceived benefits of ParaSport.Acquired SCI led to greater life appreciation and enhanced relationships.Identified gains included self-identity, improved clarity and perception of life.Post traumatic growth can be experienced following acquired SCI.

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