Multi-Sport Disciplines & Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

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Triathlon: three sports and many different ways to injure yourself. Swimming, cycling and running all carry their own unique brand of injuries, both muscular and skeletal, which greatly multiply the stresses, strains and hazards to which the body is exposed to during triathlon training and competition.

Much of this theory also applies to other multi-sport disciplines such as adventure racing, cross-fit, decathlon and pentathlon. These continuous multi-sport disciplines are completed in a progressive state of fatigue which leads to a decrease in form creating greater exposure to injury, frequently through subconscious compensation strategies that the body adopts.

Cycling 120 km is an event in itself. After an open water swim, arms and shoulders are fatigued which can lead to poor form on the bike with upper or lower back pain and hip stresses due to changed posture which is then further aggravated by running a marathon.

Leaving aside the road rash from crashing (see last week’s Insight article), the body is at risk of tendonitis, stress fractures, shoulder pain, iliotibial band syndrome, chondromalacia patella, plantar fasciitis, shin splints and shin pain, rotator cuff tendonitis and shoulder pain. Most of these injuries can be prevented by proper form and balanced training, however the perfect athlete has yet to be born.


How can hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) help?

HBOT can aid recovery between training sessions by speeding up the recovery process. It will help prevent injury associated with fatigue state training and but will not reduce the neurological advantages of the training or the psychological effect.

More importantly, the repair of damaged fascia and muscle tears are accelerated in a hyperbaric environment. Previously there was some scepticism about the use of HBOT in osteogenesis, however Okubo and colleagues [Okubo et al. 2001] studied a rat model in which recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein-2 was implanted in the form of lyophilized discs.

The group treated with HBOT and exposed to 2 ATA for 60 minutes daily had significantly increased new bone formation. This is supported by a number of reports of accelerated bone healing in elite athletes.

HBOT is not a substitute for a good bike fit, or an antidote for associated repetitive stress injuries, but it can get you back on the bike, road or in the pool quicker. It can help with faster recovery and prevent injury the next day. That £15,000 carbon fibre road bike won’t do you any good sitting in the garage whilst you recover from an injury!