A thematic analysis of social identity and injury in CrossFit®
Beasley, Vista L.
Eklund, Robert C.
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Beasley, V. L., Arthur, R., Eklund, R.C., Coffee, P. and Arthur, C. (2021) 'A thematic analysis of social identity and injury in CrossFit®', Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 10(2), pp. 327-343.
The purpose of this study was to explore the viability of the social identity approach as a theoretical framework for examining injury in the context of a group exercise program, CrossFit®. Specifically, we sought to identify values of group exercise participants relevant to overuse risk behaviors as well as participants’ responses to criticisms about injury. Via thematic analysis, observations of a CrossFit® setting (N = 31) and interviews of members (N = 14) yielded three social identity content (i.e., Being Hard Core, Achieving Results, Camaraderie). Behaviors employed to enact these social identity content (e.g., engage in frequent, high-intensity workouts; attend despite low-level pain; encourage others to continue despite pain; withhold pain reports from group leaders) enabled members to obtain positive evaluations or avert negative evaluations of group members yet also incurred higher overuse injury risk. We also identified two prominent types of responses of CrossFit® members to criticisms about injury in CrossFit® activity: Compare dimensions (e.g., how well members handled the injuries; the effort they put into prevention; health benefits; strength gained) of the group which were perceived as superior to other contexts, and denounce critics. These response types were interpreted to reflect social creativity and polarization, respectively. Altogether, the findings indicate that group-based psychological factors contribute to overuse injury, advancing previous literature in which intra- and interpersonal factors were the primary focus. This study contributed to the literature by identifying theory-based injury risk factors in group exercise contexts which may inform future injury-prevention interventions.