The aim of this paper is to demonstrate the use of the structural functionalist sociological perspective in a disability sport inquiry. A study of socialization into wheelchair basketball is used to show how the ontological and epistemological assumptions of structural functionalism underlie decisions about the research problem and subproblems, data collection method, explanation of the results, and conclusion. Wheelchair basketball is conceptualized as a social system, and socialization as a process that ensures pattern maintenance within the system. A critique is offered of how the perspective has been interpreted in the disability sport literature, its capacity to incorporate variance, and theoretical and heuristic utility for examining disability sports.
Trevor Williams is with the Department of Physical Education, Sports Science and Recreation Management at Loughborough University, Loughborough, LE11 3TU, England. Tarja Kolkka is with Suomen Invalidien Urheiluliitto, Kumpulantie 1, 00520 Helsinki, Finland.