Injury Prevention Tips for Triathletes

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September 27, 2018


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There’s little doubt that triathletes are a special breed of competitors, with required training in disciplines covering the popular sport’s swimming, cycling and running regiments.

But there are physical challenges, especially for those competing in their first event or those new to the sport. The most common challenge during training: overuse injuries. During an event, the biggest obstacle can be staying hydrated and properly fueled in South Florida’s stifling heat and humidity.

The Mack Cycle Escape to Miami Triathlon, co-sponsored by Baptist Health South Florida, which is set for this Sunday (Sept. 30), is helping propel the popularity of triathlete training. The event launches in the waters off of Margaret Pace Park on Biscayne Bay. It features two Triathlon divisions that can draw a range of enthusiasts, from the beginner to the seasoned athlete. There is the “international distance” (swim 0.9 mile), (bike 24.8 miles), and (run 6.2 miles); and the “sprint distance” (swim 0.25 mile), (bike 13 miles); and (run 3.1 miles).

Triathletes tend to switch from a single sport — most often distance running or cycling — and add to their training the other two disciplines. But additional workouts without proper pacing and precautions lead to overuse injuries.

“Triathletes can suffer injuries from the compound effect of adding too much training without proper care and guidance,” said Gautam Yagnik, M.D., a specialist with the Miami Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Institute at Baptist Health South Florida.

Studies have shown that the most prevalent sites of overuse problems are the knees, lower legs and lower back. Running and cycling are more likely to cause injuries. But even adding swimming, and overdoing it, can cause rotator cuff Tendonitis or shoulder pain.

During an event, keeping hydrated helps prevent both injuries and heat exhaustion in South Florida’s typically overheated climate.

Carla Duenas, a registered dietitian with Community Health at Baptist Health South Florida,and a triathlete herself, emphasizes using the bike ride for maximum nutritional benefits after the swimming phase.

“You should have a bottle of water and one with a sports drink already set on the bike, just get your food (bananas, gels or the like) ready to go on your bike or kit, easily accessible to eat during the bike ride,” Ms. Duenas says.

The cycling portion of the event offers the ideal opportunity to hydrate and fuel, she says.

“This is the best time because your stomach is not bouncing and you are more likely to tolerate foods and drinks,” Ms. Duenas says. “It’s important to drink every 15-20 minutes, alternating between water and sports drinks.”

By the start of the event, athletes should be properly conditioned after a long period of training which should have included many precautions for avoiding overuse injuries.

“Cross-conditioning is important and a key training element for triathletes, but proper preparation, stretching, hydration, periods of rest and other precautions should be taken to avoid overuse injuries,” Dr. Yagnik said.

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