When words fail, pictures speak: A visual autoenthography of a female university student-athlete with post-concussion syndrome


Sport-related concussions (SRC) are an epidemic among all levels of sport (Noble & Hesdorffer, 2013) and an increasing number of athletes are experiencing prolonged symptoms, known as post-concussion syndrome (PCS). This study used a combination of autethnography and art-based methods to demonstrate the experiences of a female university student-athlete with PCS. Data collected through retrospective personal reflection, personal journals, medical records, and art-work created during the recovery period was analyzed through a 3 step qualitative content analysis (preparation, organization, and reporting) using manifested and latent content (Elo & Kyngäs, 2008). The manifested content revealed how I was feeling in the specific context when the art was created. For example, communicating where exactly I felt my headache, or feeling trapped in a dark hole. However, when looking deeper into the latent content, more complex psychological constructs revealed the dissociation between injury and athlete, the loss of identity, and the lack of control in the recovery process. This novel integration of art-based methods in the research of the psychology of sport injury and rehabilitation provides a new perspective on the experiences of athletes with SRC and/or PCS. Sharing my experience with PCS can normalize the negative psychosocial responses to injury and rehabilitation of other athletes, as well as educate rehabilitative professionals about these responses.