Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Educational Leadership, Evaluation and Organizational Development

Degree Program

Educational Leadership and Organizational Development, PhD

Committee Chair

Sun, Jeffrey

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Hancock, Meg

Committee Member

Hancock, Meg

Committee Member

Craddock, Douglas

Committee Member

Perrewe, Pamela

Author's Keywords

Forgotten ones; qualitative study; phenomena; student-athletes


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to gain a better understanding of the experiences of medically disqualified student-athletes (MDSA) at National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I institutions. This study is significant because few studies have examined MDSAs, yet they present concerns around career-ending injuries. Drawing on the Kübler-Ross Model of Death and Dying (1969) framework, this study examined if MDSAs have faced experiences in stage-like forms such as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. This study called the attention of athletic administrators to examine and develop support resources for this often-overlooked student-athlete group. Over five chapters, this dissertation presents summarized literature, discussed assumptions, answered four research sub questions and a central research question, providing results through interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA), and recommended best practices. Chapter 1 presents a brief overview of the study, the NCAA, medically disqualified student-athletes, and Kübler-Ross Model of Death and Dying. The history and context of student-athletes, injuries and social support are summarized in Chapter 2, along with a case for qualitative methodologies. IPA and study methodologies are discussed in detail in Chapter 3. Results are presented in Chapter 4 and explore the depth of each research sub question. Chapter 4 presents an understanding of athletic identity, need for social support, psychological reaction, and compare these reactions to Kübler- Ross Model of Death and Dying. Chapter 5 examines the central research question and how the sub questions play major roles in understanding MDSAs experience after sports. Using the themes, best practices are presented for administration to better support medically disqualified student-athletes.