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  • 2018Keeganphd

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'I am simply an athlete': a psychological exploration of athletic identity in physical impairment and amputation

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Kimberley Keegan
Publication date2018
Number of pages176
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
Original languageEnglish


Individuals with limb loss or other physical impairments are subject to devalued ‘disability’ identities. There is an increasing amount of research to show that negative experiences of ‘disability’ can be attributed to stigmatising societal attitudes. The first aim of the thesis was to complete a meta-synthesis exploring the identity-related experiences of elite athletes with physical impairments. This review demonstrated that sport facilitated valued identities, whereby individuals could adopt ‘athlete’ as a dominant identity, move from ‘incompetence’ to ‘competence’, and use sport as a path to agency. However, the findings also captured the challenges to valued identities, which included the experience of social stigma, challenging the social meanings of ‘disability’, and the simultaneous marginalisation of gender. The review concluded that the development of valued identities within sport may help to challenge the common social views attached to a ‘disability’ identity.
The second aim of the thesis was to examine whether perceived social stigma mediated the relationship between physical activity and athletic identity for individuals with amputations. There is an established direct relationship between increased physical activity and stronger athletic identity within the general population, however it is indicated that this relationship is somewhat disrupted for people with limb loss. The findings confirmed that the relationship between increased physical activity and stronger athletic identity operated through a reduction in perceived social stigma for the sample. The findings demonstrate the positive psychological effects associated with physical activity for individuals with amputation. Theoretical, clinical and research implications are discussed regarding the implementation of physical activity as an effective element of physical rehabilitation following limb loss.
Finally, the critical appraisal aimed to capture the author’s reflections on the subject topic within clinical psychology, strengths and limitations of the project and recommendations for future research.