Throughout generations stigmatization of the chronically ill individual has occurred in all parts of the globe. Creating false stereotypes and notions of what it means to be “sick,” and who are allowed to be classified as such and who is not. As for athletes, specifically at the collegiate level, the thought of being chronically ill is not a common phenomenon researchers have considered diving into. This study aims to explore the underlying reasons of collegiate athletes suffering from chronic illnesses and why they play their sport(s), investigate their perceptions of self and stigma. I investigate chronically ill collegiate athletes through and initial survey and in-depth interviews. This senior thesis incorporates literature on the chronically ill individual, self and identity, pathographies as a form of healing, stigma, and sport. The use of Erving Goffman’s theory of stigma, George Herbert Mead’s theory of the conception of self, and Margret Somers and Douglas Ezzy’s narrative identity theory create a sociological framework for my research, to better understand the reasons behind some of the responses of self and stigma stated within the interviews.

Chronically ill collegiate athletes deal not only with the pressures of living with a life-long disease but they also deal with playing a sport(s), academics, and maintaining a healthy social life. As a result, all participants felt that their illness detracted from their level of play during their sport, a setback. In some cases, describing their relationship with their illness as a separation from their mind and body. Ultimately, leading up to a disrupted sense of self, either positively or negatively, and a new or obscure outlook on life. The chronically ill athlete suffers and endures the pain and stigma that comes with it, but still finds a way to be empathetic towards others and treat them with respect since they realize that they have no idea what horrors or experiences lie within any individual.


Tierney, Thomas


Sociology and Anthropology


Diseases | Sociology | Sports Studies

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2017 Kennedy C. Payne