Injury and illness profiles during the 2014 South African Ironman triathlon


  • L Holtzhausen
  • C Smit
  • G Joubert
  • K von Hagen




 Background: There is a need for ongoing scrutiny of injury and illness profiles of ultra-distance athletes. This study aimed to record the medical history, illness and injuries of athletes receiving medical attention during the 2014 Ironman South Africa (IMSA) triathlon, and to investigate the temporal presentation of medical encounters. 

Methods: This was a retrospective, cross-sectional study. All athletes who required medical attention at the main medical tent and all of the medical posts or mobile units along the route were included in this study A total of 2 331 athletes started the race. Data included age, gender, time and stage of the race when medical attention was required, pre-race medical history and medication use, illness and injuries treated, special investigations performed, and weather conditions. 

Results: Overall, 179 athletes (7.7%) required medical attention. The incidence of medical encounters was 7.8%. A significantly higher percentage of younger participants encountered medical problems (P = 0.04). Most patient encounters (80.1%) occurred after the race. The median duration of treatment was 26 minutes. Medication was used by 35.1% of patients during the race. The most common medical encounters were exertion-related (71.2%), gastro-intestinal (16.4%), dermatological (11.9%), musculoskeletal (9.6%) and cardiorespiratory conditions (2.4%). 

Conclusion: Medical encounters occurred more frequently in later stages of the race. Most medical conditions were exertion-related. Potential higher risk may be associated with medication use, recent illness, and in younger participants. Temporal stacking of medical personnel, planning of resources according to expected conditions, preventative measures for high-risk behaviour, and on-going data collection with comparable methodology are recommended. 


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How to Cite

Holtzhausen, L., Smit, C., Joubert, G., & von Hagen, K. (2018). Injury and illness profiles during the 2014 South African Ironman triathlon. South African Journal of Sports Medicine, 30(1), 1–6.