Participation in triathlons in the United States is at an all-time high, according to USA Triathlon, the sport's governing body in the United States, whose membership has swelled from around 100,000 in 1998 to 550,446 last year. This growth in participation has been accompanied by an increase in triathlon-related injuries. Medical issues related to triathlons can be divided into three categories: pre-race training (performance optimization), race-day injuries, and post-race recovery (including management of both acute injuries and chronic overuse injuries). Training for triathlons is unique and demanding as it requires proficiency in three sports: swimming, bicycling and running. Knowledge of training and injuries specific to triathletes is important to physicians working with these athletes. Race-day medical issues and injuries include those common to endurance running events, but also encompass many other issues such as bicycling and swimming safety and biomechanics, weather and exposure changes, and transition zone safety. Race directors and physicians covering triathlons need to be aware of the multitude of potential medical problems that can occur during the race. Many fitness experts tout the benefits of cross-training for triathlons, citing improved overall fitness and the potential for reduced chronic overuse injuries. However, triathletes do experience both acute and chronic overuse injuries similar to marathon runners, cyclists and other endurance athletes.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the basic structure of triathlons (distances, events, rules), and the medical issues and acute injuries encountered during triathlon competitions.
  • Learn the training, equipment and performance optimization issues unique to triathletes.
  • Learn about diagnosis and treatment of chronic overuse injuries related to triathlon competition and training.