In fact the vast majority of triathlon injuries, up to 80% of injuries in one academic study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine happen during training. Overuse injuries make up most of these numbers, particularly of the knees, calves and ankles, and to a lesser extent, shoulders.
Most triathletes are able to train through a minor injury; however it is worth highlighting that the most important predictor of sustaining an injury in triathlon training is having a previous or recent injury, especially one which hasn’t properly healed.
Despite many theories about how to reduce the risk of injuries, only warm-up, cool down and stretching have been adequately investigated in formal scientific studies. The results suggest conflicting evidence: we cannot draw hard and fast conclusions about their benefits (or lack thereof).
We can however be pragmatic and take sensible steps to reduce the risk of injury:
– Avoid the over-training issues that are known to contribute to injury e.g. excessive hills, or stairs.
– Avoid too rapid a progression in training volume or intensity, and incorporate rest and recovery sessions: do not try and squeeze in missed sessions
– Address all injuries properly, even minor ones
– Run in shoes that are comfortable
– And finally, please don’t try anything new on race-day: especially bikes, pedals or goggle anti-fog! (Trust me!)
Dr Courtney Kipps is Medical Director for the London Triathlon and Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research Blenheim Palace Triathlon. He is also Consultant Sports Physician at the Institute of Sport, Exercise & Health and ProActive Sports Medicine, and Principal Clinical Teaching Fellow at UCL.