Triathlon event distance specialization: training and injury effects

J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Jan;24(1):30-6. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181bd4cc8.


We conducted a preliminary, questionnaire-based, retrospective analysis of training and injury in British National Squad Olympic distance (OD) and Ironman distance (IR) triathletes. The main outcome measures were training duration and training frequency and injury frequency and severity. The number of overuse injuries sustained over a 5-year period did not differ between OD and IR. However, the proportions of OD and IR athletes who were affected by injury to particular anatomical sites differed (p < 0.05). Also, fewer OD athletes (16.7 vs. 36.8%, p < 0.05) reported that their injury recurred. Although OD sustained fewer running injuries than IR (1.6 +/- 0.5 vs. 1.9 +/- 0.3, p < 0.05), more subsequently stopped running (41.7 vs. 15.8%) and for longer (33.5 +/- 43.0 vs. 16.7 +/- 16.6 days, p < 0.01). In OD, the number of overuse injuries sustained inversely correlated with percentage training time, and number of sessions, doing bike hill repetitions (r = -0.44 and -0.39, respectively, both p < 0.05). The IR overuse injury number correlated with the amount of intensive sessions done (r = 0.67, p < 0.01 and r = 0.56, p < 0.05 for duration of "speed run" and "speed bike" sessions). Coaches should note that training differences between triathletes who specialize in OD or IR competition may lead to their exhibiting differential risk for injury to specific anatomical sites. It is also important to note that cycle and run training may have a "cumulative stress" influence on injury risk. Therefore, the tendency of some triathletes to modify rather than stop training when injured-usually by increasing load in another discipline from that in which the injury first occurred-may increase both their risk of injury recurrence and time to full rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology
  • Athletic Injuries / etiology
  • Bicycling / injuries
  • Bicycling / physiology*
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / etiology
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / physiopathology
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Endurance / physiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Running / injuries
  • Running / physiology*
  • Swimming / injuries
  • Swimming / physiology*
  • Time Factors