Lee Sinden, J. (2013). Health Problems in elite rowing:  Using interviews to expose female rowers’ lived experiences.  Journal of Sport and Health Research. 5(1):25-42.



Research shows that elite athletes continue to be at risk of developing health problems, and many continue to train despite these health problems. Although studies have shown that athletes attribute their decisions to train when they have health problems to pressure to perform, fear of losing their position, and not wanting to let their teammates down (Lee Sinden, 2010), researchers are seeking deeper understanding into the development of health problems and the underlying reasons why athletes disregard their health for the sake of sport performance. For example, a recent study used semi- structured interviews to explore the role of negative emotion norms (normalization of emotion), subsequent suppression, and female rowers decisions to continue to train after they developed health problems, such as disordered eating and injuries (Lee Sinden, 2010). Although the research was looking specifically at negative emotion norms; viewing emotions as negative, mentally weak, private, feminine, and irrational (for more detail see Lee Sinden, 2010, 2012a, 2012b), the interviews exposed more thorough descriptions of how it felt for these rowers to experience health problems while they were training for elite rowing. Interestingly, the results from the initial demographic questionnaire, (used to self identify athletes who were suffering one or more health problem) did not demonstrate accurately the quantity or severity of the health problems that were experienced by the rowers. The subsequent interviews provided the opportunity for athletes to fully reflect on their experiences in a way that their initial demographic questionnaire did not. In addition, the rich descriptions in the interviews provided a timeline for the researchers, showing that all the athletes entered rowing healthy and developed at least one health problem after being in rowing for only one year. All the athletes eventually retired from rowing due to one or more health complication (Lee Sinden, 2010, 2012a). The purpose of the following paper is to present excerpts from the athletes’ descriptions of health problems, in order to add to the present literature on health issues in rowing and to help researchers find deeper understanding into the development of health issues and athletes’ maladaptive responses to their health problems. This study concludes with suggestions for future research and practice.



Female athletes, health problems, maladaptive response, emotions, rowing, qualitative research. 

Journal of Sport and Health Research - 2009