Date of Award

11-4-2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

School Name

College of Health Professions

Department

Health Professions

Major Advisor

Barbara Jackson

Abstract

Considered the world’s largest annual rehabilitative wheelchair games event for Veterans in the United States, the National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG or the Games), co-hosted annually by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Paralyzed Veterans of America, is a long-standing event that offers a view into how adaptive sports and recreational activities can impact Veterans with disabilities. This hermeneutic phenomenological qualitative study sought to discover if the Veteran athletes, who participated in the NVWG between 2017 and 2021, described their lived experiences through the lens of their public social media posts on Instagram, and if so, what can be gleaned from their written captions, pictures, videos, and hashtags. Through retrospective interpretive analysis of 13 Instagram posts, findings determined that Veterans purposefully communicate about their NVWG lived experience and, at times, do so in detail.

These results indicate that NVWG participants, whether in-person or remotely via NVWGatHOME, inform the viewer on aspects related to overcoming their physical limitations, the positive effect the Games had on their mental health, feelings of social connectedness, gaining a sense of accomplishment, and anticipation of improvements in their future. Irrespective of the modality of the event in which the Veteran participated (in-person, online, or both), the results were the same. In addition, the findings showed that people associated with Veteran participants also used the social media platform to support the Veterans in their rehabilitative experience during the events. The insights from these NVWG lived experiences contribute to the compilation of existing research in the effort to expand understanding of the individual and collective benefits that organized rehabilitative adaptive sports programs can have for Veterans with disabilities.

Available for download on Sunday, November 19, 2023

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