3 Common Triathlete Injuries and How to Treat Them
If you are one of the approximately 4 million athletes who are actively participating in triathlons across the USA, chances are good that you have fallen victim to one or more injury. Despite their extreme fitness levels, triathletes are, unfortunately, susceptible to a large variety of injuries of which up to 85% are attributed to overuse. Most injuries are easy to manage and don’t require daunting corrective medical procedures. Three injuries in particular are very common among competitive triathletes, necessitating the need to take the required measures to prevent them as far as possible or, should they occur, treat them effectively.
Shoulder pain in triathletes is common mainly due to how freestyle swimming develops the chest muscles and front of the shoulder, creating a major imbalance with the remainder of the shoulder muscles. The symptoms can range from a dull, radiating ache to a sharp, debilitating pain in the shoulder region, both of which are more noticeable when your arm is extended above your head while swimming freestyle. The best way to combat this type of pain is to ensure that you work all your muscles and not just those that will propel you forward during a race. As soon as the pain starts you need to rest and alternate ice packs with deep-tissue massages. Shoulder pain is hard to avoid altogether but by doing exercises such as lateral raises to return balance to the shoulder, you can minimize the prevalence of the pain as best as possible.
Stress fractures most commonly occur when an athlete undertakes additional intensive training without proper acclimatization and recovery. As these types of fractures are a direct result of the unremitting shockwaves our bodies are subjected to while we train, they are mostly confined to the legs, hips and feet where triathletes are concerned. The first sign that you may be suffering from a stress fracture is a sensation of pain that is deeply rooted in the bone. If you experience such pain you need to cease training immediately and seek medical attention where a set of X-rays can provide a diagnosis. Stress fractures can take anywhere between 6 and 8 weeks to heal and although you will be required to stop running and cycling altogether, your doctor may give you the go-ahead to continue training in the pool. If you want to avoid stress fractures altogether you need to make sure that you follow a nutrient-dense diet and allow yourself enough recovery time in between your training sessions. Investing in a good recovery supplement such as fish oil will go a long way in boosting your body’s natural recovery process.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome
Up to 25% of all overuse injuries in triathletes occur in the knee with Iliotibial Band Syndrome being the most commonly reported injury. The injury occurs when the iliotibial band (the ligament that runs down outside of the thigh from hip to shin), is strained or inflamed. The purpose of the iliotibial band is to stabilize and move the joint and when it is compromised, movement of the knee becomes extremely painful, making it difficult to run and sometimes even walk. The best way you can prevent this type of injury is to not increase your running distance by too much at a time as this is often seen as the predominant cause for IT band syndrome.
Injury does not have to mark the end of your participation in competitive triathlons. Advances in sports medicine are being made at breakneck speed and sports trainers and treatment facilitators alike are becoming increasingly adept at ensuring that athletes return to form as soon as it medically viable. Balanced nutrition, sufficient rest time and an in-depth knowledge of your own body and it’s limitations will go a long way in helping you stay free from injury and performing at your best at all times.
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