School Research Seminar - Hard Knock Life: Concussion, dementia, and sporting subjectivity

We are delighted to welcome Dr Greg Hollin (University of Sheffield) to deliver the School Research Seminar.


The first decades of the twenty-first century have seen a ‘concussion crisis’ in sport. This is a crisis that has involved, first, a heightened concern about the acute health risks associated with brain injury and, second, discussion of ‘Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy’, or CTE, a form of neurodegenerative disease associated with repetitive head injuries, most prominently those experienced as part of sporting activity. For the past three years I’ve been undertaking ethnographic fieldwork with three sporting communities—professional wrestlers, American footballers, and age-group soccer players— that are playing amidst this crisis and, after briefly outlining the nature of both this project and future work, I here discuss two related and preliminary findings from this research. First, I suggest that at least some amateur athletes understand their own subjectivity and mental health problems—problems either experienced in the present or expected to be experienced in the future—through the discourse of brain injury and CTE. This ‘self-fashioning’ appears to be in keeping with widely discussed sociological findings wherein individuals (increasingly) understand their identities and communities through shared biological, in this case neurological, traits. This, I tentatively suggest, is a mode of neurological self-understanding in a sporting context that has increased even within the lifespan of my own project. A second finding, paradoxical according to much of the aforementioned sociological literature, is that many of these same individuals don’t seem to care all that much and see concussion as no different from, and potentially less serious than, a host of other expected injuries. For these individuals, it is not injuries to the brain that are deemed most significant, but those that impact one’s ability to undertake paid employment. I conclude by offering thoughts on how these findings might reshape our understandings and theorisations of the brain in contemporary society.

Speaker biography

Greg Hollin is a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow based in the Department of Sociological Studies at The University of Sheffield.

Event practicalities and joining details

The event will be held on Zoom, access the meeting via the link and joining details below:

Meeting ID: 889 9205 0157
Passcode: z7^hNV

No booking required.


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