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An Investigation of Body Image in Athletes With Physical Disabilities

Nick Galli, Justine J. Reel, Hester Henderson, and Nicole Detling

The purpose of this study was twofold: (a) to explore the body image of athletes with physical disabilities, and (b) to understand how sport influences body image among these athletes. We interviewed 20 male and female athletes (M age = 34.25, SD = 8.49) from a variety of sports regarding their body image and the role of sport in influencing body image. A thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) was used to generate six themes: (a) personal significance of injury and disability, (b) noncentrality of the body and disability, (c) positive influence of sport on body esteem, (d) social factors influencing body-related emotions and perceptions, (e) body critiques and preferences, and (f) positive thoughts and emotions about the body. Sport seemed to be an important vehicle for experiencing body-related pride, and athletes expressed an intimate connection with the body parts that enabled them to physically compete.