“It's such a vicious cycle”: Narrative accounts of the sportsperson with epilepsy

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Abstract

Objectives:

There is an abundance of quantitative and medical research promoting the benefits of exercise for people with epilepsy. However, the psychosocial barriers and benefits of exercising for the sportsperson/people with epilepsy (SWE) are absent. This research aims to present the narratives of SWE over time and as a result, develop further understanding of the psychosocial impact of exercising with epilepsy.

Method:

A holistic-content and structural narrative analysis were used to explore the exercise experiences of three SWE over the course of one year. A creative non-fictional technique was used to present first person narratives, therefore providing the SWE's voice for the reader.

Results:

Narratives of ‘vicious cycle’ and ‘roller coaster’ presented complex and multi-thematic storied forms, with time and the hidden nature of epilepsy having a strong impact on narrative formation. Vicious cycle presented the cycle of desiring to exercise, but prevented from exercising because of uncontrolled seizures. This resulted in frustration and feelings of a lack of control, which subsequently increased the desire to exercise and created a cycle with no clear end. Roller coaster presented the constant psychosocial and physical undulations that epilepsy can create for a SWE over time.

Conclusion:

These narratives reveal that exercising with epilepsy has a constant and on-going positive and negative impact on the life of SWE. However, these narratives also show that it may be through the process of acceptance of their body's limitations that a healthier mental and physical state may result for the SWE.

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