Triathlon Musculoskeletal Assessment (TMA)

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Core Concepts’ Triathlon Musculoskeletal Assessment or TMA is a specialised health screen of the musculoskeletal systems of a triathlete.  Triathlons or any other endurance races taken seriously involve a lot of planning; from choosing the gear, nutritional planning, the execution plan of the actual races to the physical training. Anyone serious of triathlon as a interest and plans to keep doing it as long as they can will want to ensure that their bodies keep up.  Triathlon Musculoskeletal Assessment is one check they can do to monitor the musculoskeletal and biomechanical health of their bodies.

What is Triathlon Musculoskeletal Assessment (TMA)?

Triathlon Musculoskeletal Assessment is a series of physical tests and assessment tools used to identify possible weaknesses or tightness in the body that may lead to injury. In simple terms these tests look at posture; strength and control ; flexibility ; and balance.

How is different from medical screening?

This is different from medical screening which looks at body functions (e.g. diabetes) and the risk of catastrophic injuries such as cardiovascular events (e.g. heart attack). TMA does not replace your regular medical screening. TMA complements it.

What does Triathlon Musculoskeletal Assessment involve?

Triathlon Musculoskeletal Assessment looks at the biomechanics of your body particularly the biomechanical systems involved in racing triathlons.  Biomechanics is the study of the mechanical principles of the movement and structures of living organisms.

Mid-Back Stiffness Found on Screening

The Australian triathlon team was screened in November 2003 prior to the World Championships in New Zealand and was found to have two main predisposing factors to injury: stiffness in the thoracic spine and tight hip flexors. This pattern is unfortunately, extremely common in triathletes.

Thoracic stiffness (or stiffness in the mid-back) can also lead to a multitude of injuries, especially to the shoulders (impingement) during swimming. Swimming performance can also be adversely affected by the resultant restriction to shoulder range of motion, undermining the streamlined hydrodynamic position and causing a potential reduction in stroke length.

Australia took gold in the championship.

Biomechanics in sports is  the muscular, joint and skeletal actions of the body during the execution of a given task, skill and/or technique. Proper understanding of biomechanics relating to sports skill has the greatest implications on sport’s performance, rehabilitation and injury prevention, along with sport mastery. The best athlete is the one that executes to his or her potential.

These TMA tests are to detect any predisposing factors that may lead to injury. Some common examples are:

  • asymmetry between the left and right sides
  • joint or muscle inflexibility
  • any muscular weakness or joint instability
  • any biomechanical faults.

If any relevant factors are detected, the athlete will be prescribed an individually tailored programme of stretches and exercises to rectify the problem and reduce the risk of future injury.

Who benefits from Triathlon Musculoskeletal Assessment?

Generally, anyone who is a triathlete should have an assessment done occasionally.  Particularly those

  • Triathletes wanting to improve the performance
  • Athlete moving from a single or dual leg events either running, swimming or cycling to all three
  • Triathletes recovering from an injury and plan on getting back onto serious training
  • Triathletes planning a significant increase in training volume.

With a Triathlon Musculoskeletal Assessment, triathletes gain an understanding of what they need to work on to improve their performance and reduce risk of injury. Their trainer or coach can also better develop a training plan; for better performance, more quickly and at lower injury risk.

It is best to carry out the screening process out of competition, during the off-season, where the training load has been reduced. Screenings also take place before all major competitions, to ensure all athletes are injury-free.