Few things are more physically exerting than a triathlon. The combination of running, cycling and swimming puts almost every part of the body under immense pressure, so it’s no surprise that injuries are commonplace. The most common type of injury faced by triathletes is overuse injuries. A 2011 study found that in the 6 months leading up to a triathlon, 87% of participants reported an overuse injury. Almost a quarter of injuries reported were acute, with the vast majority of these being sustained while cycling.
With all that in mind, let’s look at some of the most common injuries experienced by triathletes.
Triathlons are a competitive game, and for this reason, most participants focus on their speed and endurance during their training. The problem here is that the strokes used for the races focuses almost exclusively on building the muscles in the chest and at the front of the shoulder. This leads to an imbalance in muscular development, which will eventually lead to pain. The best course of action to prevent this is to ensure that you focus on all your muscles, and not just the ones you will be using during the race.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome
For triathletes, 25% of all overuse injuries are reported in the knee. Of these, Iliotibial Band Syndrome is one of the most frequently reported injuries. The Iliotibial band is a collection of tissue that runs from the hip, down the thigh, and to the knee. It plays a large role in stabilising our legs as we run, but can become inflamed through overuse. The best way to prevent this inflammation is not to increase your distance too much in a short space of time, as this is the leading cause of IT Band Syndrome.
More commonly known as runner’s knee, Chondromalacia Patella is one of the most common overuse injuries among both runners and cyclists, so triathletes are a high-risk group for this particular injury. Runner’s knee occurs when the cartilage underneath the kneecap (patella) is either roughened or worn down through overuse, which leads to friction when it moves. Cyclists can help prevent the onset of runner’s knee by standing up as they cycle. Otherwise, the most effective way to prevent this injury is through strength training.
Tendonitis is the inflammation of tendons, which can occur in many different parts of the body. In triathletes, swimming can lead to tendonitis in the shoulder, running can lead to Achilles tendonitis in the feet, and cycling can lead to Patellar tendonitis in the knees. It’s important to understand that the root of all forms of tendonitis is repeated stretching of the tendons, which leads to tiny tears, causing the inflammation. Proper footwear, a well-fitting bike, and balanced workout regime with downtime are all necessary steps in avoiding tendonitis.
Stress fractures occur when we undertake more intensive training without allowing for proper adjustment or recovery time. As stress fractures are a result of the incessant shockwaves we experience while training, they are mainly confined to the hips, legs, and feet when it comes to triathletes. Stress fractures can take weeks or even months to fully recover from, so it is important to ensure that you have the proper footwear and allow your body time to rest. To learn more about footwear and exercise, see our blog on Choosing Running Shoes.