University Of Tasmania

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From superhero to human: a narrative analysis of digital news stories of retirement from the NFL due to injury

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 03:23 authored by McGannon, KR, Staden, TG, Jennifer McMahonJennifer McMahon


Within research on retirement due to injury, transitional difficulties (e.g., mental health issues, identity loss) have been identified and linked with a singular athlete identity, early or forced retirement, and difficulty comprehending life beyond sport. More research is needed to learn further about the socio-cultural context of athlete retirement and injury. The present study builds on media research in sport sociology and sport psychology, to explore retirement and injury in a cultural context, using relativist narrative inquiry. In this study, the media was explored as a cultural site circulating stories within narratives that convey meanings (e.g., injury is normal) and values (e.g., playing through pain, playing sport as long as one can) that impact athlete’s lives. A thematic narrative analysis was conducted on 60 digital news stories of one incident surrounding a high profile athlete in the National Football League (NFL): Andrew Luck’s retirement due to injury. A central narrative identified was “football’s toll on athlete health.” Three small storylines shaped nuanced meanings of Luck’s injury and retirement within the central narrative: “defending the retirement,” “from superhero to human,” and “athlete communities of pain and injury.” The theoretical and applied contributions of the findings are outlined. We conclude with what a narrative approach to media stories affords sport psychology, and suggest future research.

Lay Summary: In this study, media stories and narratives that frame them are explored as cultural resources to learn more about athlete retirement due to injury. The findings provide valuable insight into media stories as entry points of awareness, concerning pain and injury linked to mental health, and vulnerability shown through a high profile athlete’s stories.


Publication title

Journal of Applied Sport Psychology










Faculty of Education


Taylor & Francis Ltd

Place of publication

4 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, England, Oxon, Ox14 4Rn

Rights statement

Copyright 2021 Association for Applied Sport Psychology

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

The media; Sport, exercise and recreation not elsewhere classified