Author ORCID Identifier

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Mary Hermann

Second Advisor

Dr. Donna Gibson

Third Advisor

Dr. Naomi Wheeler

Fourth Advisor

Dr. David Naff

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Gerlach


The purpose of the qualitative studywas to examine the lived experiences of Division I collegiate student-athletes who coped with a season-ending injury. The researcher used a hermeneutic phenomenological approach to understand how injury impacts identity development, mental health, and coping among student-athletes. As one of the only studies to examine all of these factors, the present study aimed to enhance counselor educators’ understanding of the specific needs of this population to provide developmentally appropriate support for injured student-athletes. The researcher collected data through 14 interviews with present or recently retired NCAA Division I student-athletes. Data analysis showcased diverse experiences with a season-ending injury that resulted in five themes: (a) Team Culture, (b) Emotional Response to Injury, (c) Impact on Identity Development, (d) Coping Resources Outside of the Team, and (e) Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic.Within the theme of the Team Culture, the subthemes include: (a) Coaches Foster Attitudes About Injury, (b) Desire for Relationship Continuity, (c) Teammates Enact Team Culture, and (d) Social Life Negatively Affected. The subthemes for the Emotional Response to Injury are (a) Grief, Loss, and Sadness; (b) Fear, Guilt, and Perfectionism; and (c) Aids and Barriers to Mental Health Counseling. For Impact on Identity Development, subthemes include: (a) Value Linked to Athletic Ability, (b) Recovery Process as a System to Make Meaning, and (c) Taking on New Roles on the Team. Coping Resources Outside of the Team include: (a) Athletic Trainers as Mental Health First Responders Post Injury and (b) Support Outside Athletics. The final theme of the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic is discussed, as it is a parallel to the experience of coping with a season ending injury. These themes are discussed in relation to other research on student-athletes, as well as implications for counselor education, counseling, athletic departments, and student affairs. Limitations and recommendations for future research are also discussed.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission