Ironman triathlon injuries.



Sport injury basics



First up is injury prevention.jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj

Don't overtrain.

Good coaches will help to prevent this happening. However your coach is unlikely to be by your side all the time(only if you are married or live next door to them), so it helps to learn to listen to your body very carefully. And respond the right way(ahh?... a day off.... ahh?.... revert the hard training session to something more easy). Really stating the obvious, but again it is a reminder.

So what does this entail. Firstly for example it entails oneself thinking consciously about what is happening when we are getting sick. Getting sick a few times in short succession is pointing towards a weakened immune system, which is a bad sign.

It is likely you will have some 'indicator' signs when you are starting to 'over do it', or training too hard. That could be for example picking up a virus, cramping or other illness more than usual or even slow healing of a wound. If you are incorporating regular time trials(run and bike), or shorter races in your training and all of a sudden there is a large performance drop, then you would have to ask why...... overtraining is a possibility.

Taking your HR every morning before you get out of bed is a good way to check if you are over doing it. Anything like 5-10 beats/min above your normal baseline is indicative of overtraining. It is likely you will feel more tired than usual also when you get up. Loosing motivation can also indicate your body is under too much stress.

Having the background medical knowledge helps alot but it is not essential. Commonsense can prevail.


Don't race when you are sick.

Watched a guy doing an elite ITU race last year and noticed he was coughing during the bike. In the run he was at the very back and breathing really hard. Caught up with him after the race and found he came to a sticky end; fainting and being carted off by the ambulance. That is an extreme example, but I say under no circumstances should we race if 'sick'. You may get away with it in non-elite races but it is just not worth it. Am sure the pros with any longevity in the sport know this. Heres a suggestion, wait until you feel back to full health, do a couple of normal days training, still feeling no ill effects, then do a sprint distance tri in your training. That should ensure you make up for the missed race. If the missed race was a half ironman or so, then do a quick olympic distance tri for your training day. There has to be a way around racing when you are ill.

And yes I have done an age group races while 'still under the cloud'(close to fully recovered) of influenza and no it wasn't worth it ; was 100meters into the swim and all of a sudden my arms and the rest of my body just went 'flat'.

If you think you have recovered from an illness and you are well enough to start you might try, but obviously it would make sense to pull out if you weren't feeling up to taking it out/getting the required placing. I don't recommend starting(when under a cloud of ill health), and pushing untill you drop under any circumstances though.

So basically am not going to give a definition of what 'sick' entails on this site. I could try but it would take too long. Common an obvious reasons not to start are influenza and gastro-intestinal illnesses for example. Otherwise consult a doctor who understands what you are doing and use commonsense if you deteriorate.


Oh yeah, prevention is better than cure so here are some more tips to stay injury free :

- try dirt trails for a run rather than the hard pavement,

- listen to the signals your body is sending you,

- use good technique when exercising,

- involve some stretching routines in your training and recovery,

- use massage and other techniques to aid recovery post raceday,

- replace well worn run shoes and be sure they suit your foot plant style,

- maintain muscle balance in all areas of the body,

- take time out from training during illness such as flu viruses, or at least cut back to easy sessions,

- eat healthy foods and maintain good hydration at all times, but especially the few months before your 'targeted goal' events for the season,

- also ensure you have a 'proper' nutrition and fluids plan for raceday which has been practised in training,

- use common sense, etc..............................

- take your HR every morning before you get out of bed to check you are over doing it ; anything like 5-10 beats/min above your normal baseline is indicative of overtraining.




Sports injuries basics.


Have been thinking to write on this subject for some time, as it is quite common in triathlon/ironman from what I see.

It is purposely written to avoid using alot of medical terminology.

Will discuss here some basics related to chronic(long term cause/resolution) and acute(short term cause) injuries.

Was advised by a very prominant pro triathlete/ironman from days gone by that injuries go hand in hand with the job.

In my own case like many others it is not my job, but still managed a few injuries along the way.

Personally I like to listen to my body closely and hold back when something is up. Some years back I developed and acute tear of a tendon behind the knee, and even though I was very fit and could have kept going hard, I took a month or so out.

-With acute injuries, the R.I.C.E method is often followed, that is Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

All four of these methods are useful to reduce the initial swelling and pain, but there is one important element missing and that is the use of drugs and particularly anti-inflammatories(the likes of aspirin and ibroprofen).

So yes, have treated myself successfully with no outside assistance (but knowledge from my background), for a very serious partial rupturing of multiple tendons and ligaments of the foot and knee at the same time. I believe you don't want to over do any of the above (R.I.C.E and anti-inflammatories) and to keep up easy movement.

Safe and correct use of anti-inflammatory medicines is discussed in detail in an article here by a friend with a Bpharm and dipSports medicine.

So what is all this about? We all want to remove pain so that is important, but a bigger take on it is to reduce the bodies 'over reaction' to the trauma. Basically the body is too good at healing itself and works a bit fast. Working too fast is painful in part due to all the 'repair cells' rushing to the injury, and it can also result in 'excess' scar tissue. An example of excess scarring is a ligament healing too fast and ending up 'shortened'.

Injuries involving ligaments(for example) will often also require some easy stretching to get the range of movement back to its original state. The timing and techniques required of this easy stretching will depend on an individual case by case basis.

Once the initial swelling subsides it can be useful to increase the blood supply and techniques used are ultrasound and light massage/easy movements

Complete ruptures require surgical repair, but for most other tears/injuries the body is amazing at healing itself. Managed well, the injury will very often return to its initial state/strength.

-With chronic injuries the treatments are different and quite broad. An injury that last several years or more is a reasonable definition of long term(or chronic). Chronic injuries can vary in severity from very minor to very severe. With long term injuries it is not uncommon to carry on as normal as possible and try and train through it.

Long term injuries can be completely resolved, but are likely to require more time to do so(compared with acute injuries).

Won't go into detailed treatments of chronic injuries as there are alot of people out there proposing all sorts of things! Cutting back on very strenuous activities and keeping weight off the body are good starting points though. Keeping weight off(or at least maintaining a healthy body mass index) can be hard, but is important. Strengthening and some stretching exercises of the area associated with the chronic injury to provide support are also useful(commonly recommended by physiotherapists).

Well thats my take on the basics.

Am sure you can gain more knowledge on the subject by searching the internet or talking with informed people. It should help your understanding if the inevitable occurs.





And if you over do it ........... burn out

Avoiding this situation could easilly be another article on this site in future.

Basically listen to your body and be a bit careful.

Severe 'burn out' can easilly result in a missed season of competing at your highest level





Some injury stories including my own jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj

Going from doing shorter olympic distance style triathlons to an event like ironman takes some knowledge. The knowledge is all pretty much out there if you have time to search it out. One mistake I made was attacking the uphill sections of the 180km bike a bit hard. Felt strong on the bike so rode it the same way I always have in olympic distance races. The result was tearing to some tendons in the proximal insertion of my gastronemius muscles. These minor tears didn't stop me training post-'Challenge Wanaka', but they have slowed me down. Ouch.....

Well it has been 6 weeks since completing the 'Challenge Wanaka' 2008 and my last training effort a few days ago showed up my tendons behind my knee are still repairing themselves. They are sore and this is not unexpected. It does not bother me as am well aware tendons can take 2-3 months to heal(reason being a poor blood supply to tendons and it is similiar for ligaments ).

I did manage to inflame these tendons a bit with some hard training about 2 1/2 months after the ironman and in other cycle rides before that. The tendon injury problem completely resolve at about 4 months and I did take the last few weeks of that time off training and doing leg exercises.

A work mate colleague a few years back told me how he had done some permanent damage to his back after completing an ironman. So be a bit cautious in your first ironman I would say, unless you have managed to replicate the race particularly well in training in which case you might get away with it.


Another injury I had which really bothered me because of the long list of differential diagnosis was some hip inflammation. It is still there(very faintly) after several years and looks to be just tightening of the hip flexor/extensor muscle groups. Stretching and I mean forceful stretches that are held seem to make a difference. I do believe alot of pressure must be applied to this region for an effective stretch. Well it was very annoying but there are plenty of worse injuries to have. Surprisingly hard cycle training on it even seems to improve it, so some strengthning exercises of problem areas is sometimes indicated also.

See a good physiotherapist who has a strong background in endurance sports like running or triathlon for example.

Update a year later(2009), and the above hip injury is pretty much resolved. It has turned out that working on strengthening the gluteal muscles as well as specific regular stretching of the area has minimised any effects on performance it was having.




The above was compiled by:


G Baird BSc(physiology), BVSc, dipTeaching.






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