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Disabil Rehabil. 2013;35(24):2064-72. doi: 10.3109/09638288.2013.805822. Epub 2013 Jun 26.

The role of initial physical activity experiences in promoting posttraumatic growth in Paralympic athletes with an acquired disability.

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  • 1Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Chichester, College Lane, West Sussex , Chichester PO19 6PE , UK.



To explore Paralympic athletes' lived experiences of becoming physically active after disability, and the role that this may have played in the development of posttraumatic growth.


Life history interviews were conducted with 7 individuals with an acquired and traumatic disability, who were aiming to take part in the London 2012 Paralympic Games. This was also informed by observation of sport participation. Data were analysed using a holistic content analysis.


Three main themes were identified that reflected participants' initial physical activity experiences and which were linked to posttraumatic growth. These were recognizing possibility by acknowledging limitations, responsibility for choice and consequences, and re-establishing and enhancing meaning.


Posttraumatic growth is a process and consequently, part of this process may include experiencing both positive and negative trauma symptoms. Participation in physical activity may assist an individual in achieving posttraumatic growth by facilitating meaning making, providing an environment where risks and responsibilities can be taken, and allowing an individual to understand their limitations and future possibilities.


While posttraumatic growth is often associated with positive psychological outcomes, it is important to consider that this can occur alongside the experience of negative trauma symptoms. Participation in physical activity may induce both positive and negative responses following trauma. In order to foster posttraumatic growth, physical activity should be meaningful to the activity and allow a sense of control and personal responsibility.

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