Background

Sport in Times of Illness                                                    

Being chronically ill often has a strong impact on someone’s life and identity. It is generally assumed that sport/physical activity enhances recovery and/or the quality of life. However, sport does not have a positive meaning for all patients, and opportunities and meanings may also change for sports lovers after a diagnosis. Medical advice that ignores the meaning of sport to patients has little effectiveness.

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‘Sport in Times of Illnes’ is a study on (the interactive (re-)construction of) meanings of sport and physical activity for the chronically ill. Our aim is to contribute to the further refining of sport and exercise interventions for these patients. Central to this study are the various sport-illness stories (“narratives”) of people with diabetes, depression, breast cancer and HIV, and the expertise and ideas of (allied) medical professionals giving advice and support through sport and physical activity. A cyclical narrative design is used including a questionnaire for patients, the reconstruction of patient’s sport-illness life histories, in-depth interviews with medical professionals and ethnographic case studies on narrative processes during physical interventions. Our approach is complementary to existing medical research.

This project is funded by NWO, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research and takes four years. It involves a collaborative between the VUmc/EMGO+ and the Mulier Institute, and therefore includes research expertise in both healthcare and sport. Together with a strong public consortium involved in all phases of the research, this study intends to critically examine and further improve the assistance offered to the chronically ill when (re-) approaching sporting activities after diagnosis, in order to improve their quality of life.

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