"We're good at hiding things like pain": Conceptions of masculinity and help-seeking in male collegiate collision sport athletes


Men live shorter and generally unhealthier lives than women, which may be in part attributable to the influences of masculinity on health-related and help-seeking behaviour. Male athletes, and those in collision sports in particular, are often pressured to conform to traditional masculine norms and sport culture that discourages displays of vulnerability. Inclusive masculinity has emerged amongst some sporting contexts in recent years, wherein male athletes may be empowered to reject some harmful norms. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore how traditional and inclusive conceptualizations of masculinity influence help-seeking behaviour in collegiate male collision sport athletes. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 student-athletes on football and rugby teams. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and coded following an inductive reflexive thematic analysis. Our findings illuminate contemporary conceptions of masculinity in Canadian university collision sports. Traditional masculine norms are still widely held and reinforced in sport contexts, though many athletes expressed comfort straying from these norms when off the field. Participants felt that seeking help for physical or mental health could be viewed as admitting weakness, which could cost them respect and playing time. Offering or providing help or support for teammates dealing with physical or mental health concerns was contrastingly viewed as strength. Our findings demonstrate that notions of inclusive masculinity are becoming more acceptable to individual players, despite not being openly accepted by coaches or within their team environment. These findings offer implications for coaches and sport administrators to use gender-sensitized approaches to promote help-seeking in male athletes.