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The Perception of Injury Risk and Safety in Triathlon Competition: An Exploratory Focus Group Study

Gosling, Cameron McR. MAppSc*; Donaldson, Alex DHSc; Forbes, Andrew B. PhD*; Gabbe, Belinda J. PhD*

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: January 2013 - Volume 23 - Issue 1 - p 70–73
doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e318271c5e1
Brief Report

Objective: To explore stakeholder perceptions of triathlon competition safety and injury risk.

Design: Qualitative focus group study.

Setting: Triathlon stakeholders from Melbourne, Australia.

Participants: Competition organizers, coaches, and competitors of various skill levels, age, gender, and experience (n = 18).

Interventions: Focus groups were conducted, recorded, and transcribed for analysis.

Main Outcome Measures: Key themes were identified using content analysis.

Results: The perceived risk of serious injury was highest for cycling. Running was most commonly linked to minor injuries. Physical and environmental factors, including course turning points, funneling of competitors into narrow sections, and the weather, were perceived as contributing to injury. Experience, skill level, feelings of vulnerability, personal awareness, club culture, and gender issues were perceived as the competitor-related factors potentially contributing to injury. The cycling mount/dismount area, cycling, and swim legs were the race sections perceived as the riskiest for competitors. Competition organizers were considered to generally have the competitors’ best interest as a priority. Triathlons were acknowledged as risky activities and individual competitors accepted this risk.

Conclusions: This study has highlighted the main risks and concerns perceived by triathlon competitors, coaches, and competition organizers, which will help identify potential, context-relevant intervention strategies to reduce injury risk.

*Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, The Alfred Center, Melbourne, Australia

Australian Center for Research into Injury in Sport and its Prevention (ACRISP), Monash Injury Research Institute, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.

Corresponding Author: Cameron McR. Gosling, MAppSc, Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, The Alfred Center, 99 Commercial Rd, Melbourne, Victoria 3004, Australia (

B. Gabbe was supported by a Career Development Award from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Received February 21, 2012

Accepted August 29, 2012

Copyright © 2013 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.