A breath of fresh air: Breathing stories of the lived experiences of asthma and sporting embodiment

  • Helen Owton

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The purpose of this study is to conduct an investigation of the lived experiences of asthma and sporting embodiment in non-elite sportspeople of different ages and levels of ability, involved in a range of sports. Asthma is characterised as a breathing disorder and the aim of this research is to add to embodied literature by providing ‘fleshy’ realities of the moving, sweating, sensuous sporting body, which holds meanings, purposes and interests for people who experience sport with asthma. Breathing is not only a physiological process, but it is also cultural and people may deal with their asthma symptoms in ways that reflect cultural attitudes embedded in sport. This qualitative study addresses five exploratory questions: 1) How do sportspeople experience asthma? 2) How do sportspeople negotiate their asthma and sporting identities? 3) How do emotional dimensions play a role in sportspeople’s asthma and sporting experiences? 4) How do perceptions of environment and illness shape one another by examining the relationship between the body, the self and environment? 5) What is the role of trauma in sportspeople with asthma? 6) How do key senses (sound) play a role in sportspeople’s asthma and embodied sporting experiences? Through a symbolic-interactionsist and phenomenological-inspired approach, this research places emphasis on the mind-body-self nexus in relation to sensory experiences with a focus upon the centrality of the ‘visceral’ body in the relationship between self-consciousness and the self. A bodily disruption (e.g., asthmatic attack) is likely to heighten awareness of the body-self and contingency and may amplify how sportspeople listen to their own embodied selves when engaged in sporting action. Therefore, sportspeople may become even more acutely aware of, and attuned to, their breathing in ways that link the physiological, the psychological, the social and the environment. This may lead to a permanent re-ordering/negotiation of identities (e.g., athletic identity - asthma identity) through ‘emotion work’ and ‘somatic (auditory) work’ in which a concern with the body is central. The findings are represented as a typology consisting of Conformers, Contesters and Creators, which may be used as a framework to assist health care and sporting professionals in developing more appropriate and effective rehabilitation regimes for sportspeople, in order to improve the quality of treatment and outcomes. Key words: lived experiences, bodily disruption, sensuous sporting body, asthma and sporting embodiment, somatic (auditory) work, identity, emotion work
    Date of Award2012
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Northampton
    SupervisorPaul Freeman (Supervisor), David Gilbourne (Supervisor), Jacqueline Allen-Collinson (Supervisor) & Avril Mewse (Supervisor)

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