Hero or sissy? Study explores perception of injured athletes

May 30, 2014
Melinda Weathers (left) discusses athlete injuries and communication strategies with undergraduate student Samantha Warren at Clemson's Social Media Listening Center. Credit: Craig Mahaffey, Clemson University

NFL teams shoulder most of the blame for players' injuries and sports journalists can shift football cultural norms toward valuing players who put their health first.

These are the key findings of a new study authored by Clemson University researchers Jimmy Sanderson and Melinda Weathers that examined and safety issues in sports. It was published in the journal Communication & Sport.

"Media coverage of players who decide to sit out or play through an injury may impact players' future decision-making as well as fans' attitudes towards these players," said Sanderson.

"Sitting out during an injury is often viewed as weak and lacking the requisite toughness demanded by football, whereas playing through an injury is often viewed as the action of a warrior who embodies the ethos of sport," Weathers stated.

Where violence and sacrificing one's body to inflict pain are part of the football experience, the research explores print media framing of two injuries experienced by NFL quarterbacks: Jay Cutler sitting out the remainder of a championship game due to an injury he suffered and Robert Griffin III electing to play through his injury.

"Surprisingly, given that Cutler has been viewed as possessing a terse personality, the most common frame was supportive, consisting of positive statements defending Cutler's decision to remove himself from the championship game," said Sanderson.

Other supportive media framing included positive sentiment regarding the backlash that Cutler originally received after leaving the game, expressing that negativity toward him was unwarranted and that his peers should have supported him.

"Upon entering the league, Griffin was perceived as a good guy, so it is perhaps not surprising that the majority of articles framing his injury directed blame elsewhere," said Weathers.

Regardless of the specific blame for the that Griffin endured, media shifted the blame away from the quarterback and onto the coaches, trainers, doctors, team owner and management, field conditions and the overall NFL culture.

Given that the mass media can influence public knowledge, attitudes and behaviors regarding health problems, this research is vital for understanding the ways in which news media frame these issues as they relate to sports.

"Critics of safety changes to football often argue that football can never be made entirely safe, yet this does not mean that efforts should not be undertaken, particularly at younger levels," said Weathers.

"As sports journalists take more of an advocacy role and support athletes who make their health a priority, attitudes towards injuries and the who sustain them may gradually begin to change," Sanderson said.

Explore further: College athletes putting themselves at risk for long-term health problems

More information: com.sagepub.com/content/early/… /27/2167479514536982

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

All together now – three evolutionary perks of singing

Dec 24, 2014

We're enjoying the one time of year when protests of "I can't sing!" are laid aside and we sing carols with others. For some this is a once-a-year special event; the rest of the year is left to the professionals ...

We're simply having an analogue Christmas time

Dec 23, 2014

The British Christmas that Charles Dickens serves up to us is rich in food and warmth, two things that in his day were often thinly stretched throughout the year in many homes. These days, for most of the y ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

alfie_null
not rated yet May 31, 2014
Just another cryptic aspect of armchair quarterbacks. Why do football enthusiasts care so much about injuries sustained by professional athletes? There are many closer to home (police officers protecting your safety, for instance) who suffer injury and who are ignored. And other than as a study of irrational celebrity worship, why should the rest of us care about this relationship between football enthusiasts and professional players?
geokstr
not rated yet Jun 02, 2014
Everything leftists do is all about control, not safety, not the children either.

Plus their second biggest donor group behind unions, the trial lawyers, want to make football another "tobacco" target for class action. The first concussion lawsuit was settled for $800 million. It would be interesting to know how many tens of millions went to each of a few lawyers, and how little goes to each defendant.

Then there are the helmet manufacturers. Next will come knee and back injuries and the related equipment makers. And this is only the pro level. There are only a couple thousand pros, but there are hundreds of thousands of college players, and millions of high schoolers and peewee league players too. They get concussions too.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.