A total of 1159 participants from 43 nations (222 of whom were from Austria) too part in the survey. The 15% of study participants who were female reflects the usual proportion of female starters at long-distance triathlon events. The athletes were divided into three performance classes, with 14% being assigned to the high-performance class (i.e. with a race completion time <10h), 68% to the middle-performance class (10-13h) and 18% of the athletes to the low-performance class (> 13h). The average characteristics of both male and female long distance triathletes are illustratedin the Table.
Although males dominate the field of a long distance triathlon, “ironwomen” clearly “bob up” more than their male counterparts. Women are more diligent than men both in their discipline-specific training (as shown by their training ranges) and in their strength and mobility training. It is only as regards cycling training and in the weekly running volume (km) that this is only a tendency as opposed to a statistically significant difference.
As far as triathlete´s training habits are concerned, we should like to point out an interesting fact. Although long-distance triathlon places the highest demands on the passive musculoskeletal system and its supporting function, almost 50% of the athletes who were surveyed fail to include balance, stabilisation and or strength related exercises in their training plan. The remainder of the athletes who were surveyed did so, on average, less than once a week. Key stabilisation training of the pelvic or leg muscles (so called “leg axis training”) is neglected, with the average training frequency of it shown to be only 0.4 times a week.
Only 50% of the triathletes who were surveyed have ever training that was specific to improvement of their swimming technique, and only 20% were in receipt of professional training by a qualified coach. Most often, a workout plan is used by a bike trainer.
About half of the athletes spent up to 20% of their swim workouts training with paddles. Mostly the sets or sessions in question also involved the use of a pull boy. There was a statistically significant trend / relationship between the use of paddles and pull-boy and the onset of shoulder discomfort. Shoulder discomfort (20%) followed by cervical spine and elbow problems (2.5%) are the most common swimming-associated symptoms of training maladaptation. In addition, up to 10% of the athletes surveyed are repeatedly plagued by athlete’s foot (10%), chronic colds (9%) or chlorine allergies (9%).
Almost every long distance athlete (90%) believes that he or she has a road bike that is optimally adapted to his or her size, and regularly uses “aero” handlebar. The most common cycling related injuries are traumatic, with bruising / sprains in the shoulder and hip area just under 10%, followed by split-core clavicular? fractures (4%) and finger fractures (3%). It is also interesting that 16% of men and 32% of women have genital problems. Spinal column problems are the most common cycling-related symptoms (cervical spine 30%, cervical spine 35%). The data show a significant association between female gender and the occurrence of spinal problems (cervical spine 50%). The spinal complaints usually occur within training, but this finding can be explained by the much higher number of hours that are spent training as compared to competing. Although nearly half of all athletes with spinal problems do not undergo treatment for them, about 70% of the athletes surveyed can resume training after a three-day break.
With regard to complaints during running training, the occurrence of traumatic injuries is almost negligible here. Running problems are almost always associated with overuse, as this study also shows. Thirty four percent of the study athletes have incurred achillodynia at least once, 29% have exhibited pain behind the kneecap (so called “Runner’s knee”), and 28% have evidenced pain on the outer edge of the knee (i.e. iliotibial band syndrome). A further 14% have had problems with the soles of the(ir) feet (plantar fasciitis), and 4% reported metatarsal stress fractures. Among other things, statistically significant correlations can be found between the presence of leg length differences, ankle instability/ dysphoria, sub-optimal shoe material, older age, female gender, high exercise volume, and either the presence of preexisting injuries and or the occurrence of these injuries.
The majority of the athletes concerned prefered visiting a physiotherapist or masseur to other available treatment options. About half of the athletes suffering from knee problems reported being able to resume training after about one week. Problems with the Achilles tendon, however, proved to be more protracted issue. Nearly two thirds of athletes with achillodynia could not regain their usual training level after a week’s break from training.