Introduction: A clear understanding of injury and illness aetiology and mechanisms in short-course triathletes (standard distance and below) provides a better opportunity to identify high risk subgroups of athletes within the sport and assist in the development and implementation of targeted prevention strategies.
The objective of this systematic review is to synthesise the existing evidence relating to the incidence and/or prevalence of injury and illness within short course triathletes, and to summarise reported injury or illness aetiology and risk factors in this population.
Methods: Studies reporting health problems (injury and illness) in able-bodied and para-triathletes, inclusive of all sexes, ages and experience levels, training or competing in short-course distances were included in this review. Studies were excluded if they reported health problems in non-triathlete populations, in unspecified or longer than short-course distances, did not include epidemiological data, were intervention studies, systematic reviews or non-scientific articles and were not published in English. Six electronic databases (Cochrane, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsychINFO, Web of Science and SPORTDiscus) were searched using different key-terms. Risk of bias was independently assessed by two reviewers using the Newcastle-Ottawa Quality Assessment Scale. Data extraction was independently completed by two of the authors. Results were reported narratively following qualitative synthesis.
Results: The search yielded 7998 studies, with 42 studies eligible for inclusion. Twenty-three (55%) of the included studies investigated injury, twenty-four (57%) studies investigated illnesses, inclusive of five (12%) studies which investigated both injuries and illnesses.
Injury incidence rates ranged from 15.7-24.3 per 1000 athlete exposures, and illness incidence rates ranged from 1.8-13.1/1000 athlete days. Injury and illness prevalence ranged between 2-15% and 6-84% respectively, with these figures referring to the proportion of triathletes affected by a health problem across differing time periods. The most frequently reported health problems reported in short-course triathletes were: overuse, lower limb injuries that mainly occurred due to running; gastrointestinal and cardiovascular illnesses, mainly attributable to environmental factors (contaminated water); and respiratory illness, mainly caused by infection.
Discussion: The lack of high-quality prospective studies exploring the incidence, aetiology and risk factors for health problems in short-course triathletes has precluded the development of preventative strategies. Effective injury and illness prevention requires identification of accurate injury and illness incidence rates over entire seasons. Future research should focus on optimising performance through targeted prevention practices addressing the aetiology and risk factors associated with the highest burden health problems in short-course triathletes. Developing a greater understanding of injury severity in short-course triathletes is required to determine injury severity and inform injury prevention programs.
Impact and application to the field:
- •Overuse, lower limb injuries that mainly occurred due to running; and gastrointestinal and cardiovascular illnesses, mainly attributable to environmental factors, were the most frequently reported health problems in short-course triathletes.
- •Identifying triathlon-specific injury mechanisms, activities and risk factors is critical for prioritisation of targeted prevention programs.
Conflict of interest statement
My co-authors and I acknowledge that we have no conflict of interest of relevance to the submission of this abstract.