Triathlon has been steadily gaining in popularity, both as a competitive and recreational discipline. It is therefore surprising that triathlon injuries and illnesses have rarely been made the subject of high-quality studies. A Norwegian research team has sought to make a contribution by exploring the nature and prevalence of injuries among iron-distance triathletes. The findings of their study have been published online by the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
The team comprised researchers from the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences and the Oslo University Hospital and Faculty of Medicine. The subjects of the 26-week study were 174 athletes participating in the 2011 Norseman Xtreme Triathlon. Every other week, they filled in questionnaires designed to collect data on overuse injuries affecting the shoulder, lower back, thigh, knee and lower leg. The researchers also used standard surveillance methods to gather information about acute and overuse injuries and illnesses affecting other body parts.
An analysis of the data showed that there were 490 cases of overuse injuries, which made them responsible for 59% of the total. Among those, 20% were deemed to be very serious overuse problems. This type of injury was found to be most common in the knee (25%), lower leg (23%) and lower back (23%). A total of 41 acute injuries were recorded, with most of the moderate and severe ones affecting the knee, shoulder and sternum. As for illnesses, 156 cases were reported during the study period.
In the concluding portion of their report, the researchers noted that the knee, lower leg, lower back and shoulder are the most problematic areas for iron-distance triathletes. In light of that, they recommend that these areas be made the focal point of future studies on injury prevention.