Background: Triathlon combines swimming, cycling, and running into a single event. With increasing popularity of this sport, there has been a rise in the number of participants, particularly in shorter distance races. However, the risks of participating in short-distance races have not been reported.
Purpose: To describe the rate and profile of injuries seen for medical assistance during a triathlon race series.
Study design: Descriptive epidemiology study.
Methods: A standardized injury reporting form was used to collect information from race entrants seeking medical aid at each of the races comprising a combination of Sprint, Olympic, and Fun race distances in a triathlon series in Victoria, Australia over the 2006-2007 race season. Injury rates and risk factors were assessed via regression analysis.
Results: There were 10,197 individual starters who took part. There were 235 presentations for medical assistance (n = 322 injuries) over the series. The presentation rate was 20.1 per 1000 hours of competition (2.3% of total race starts). Injuries were predominantly sustained during the run (38.4%) and cycle (14.3%) legs. Lower limb injuries (59.5%) and abrasions (28.6%) were the most common site and nature of injury, respectively. There were 9 severe injuries: 5 fractures, 3 probable heat stroke cases, and 1 deep laceration. Elite/Junior Elite, Olympic distance, and 12- to 19-year-old competitors were at higher risk of injury, especially during running and cycling.
Conclusion: The level and age of triathlon competitors, and the race distance, influenced the risk of injury over a race series. These results provide timely information for triathlon race event organizers and could be incorporated into a review of practices for the provision of medical services to triathlon events, especially the common sprint distance competitions.
Clinical relevance: Shorter distance triathlons have lower injury rates and relatively minor injuries, but medical teams and race organizers should be prepared for serious injuries.