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Badminton Injuries

Physio&SoleClinic Knee Osteoarthritis, Lower Back And Shoulder Injuries, Physiotherapy September 27 2021

Badminton is the 2nd most popular sport in the world and Asians regularly emerge as world champions. The modern game of badminton was developed in the mid 19th century among the British as a variant of the earlier game of battledore (older term for “racquet”) and shuttlecock. It was only in 1893 that the Badminton Association of England published the rules of the game and officially launched the sport in Portsmouth, England on 13 September 1893.

In Singapore, many of us have childhood memories of casual games in the neighbourhood, hitting the shuttlecock with our friends at the void decks to escape the winds. Many of us continue with this interest into adulthood, booking indoor badminton courts at sports halls or schools for formal games. It is never easy to book a court on weekends!

Part of its popularity is also because it can be played between just 2 people and is a safe sport. Compared to contact sports like rugby, football and netball, badminton is comparatively safer. But just how ‘safe’ is badminton? In the pursuit of fun and health, injuries can still occur due to mishaps, training errors or simply inadequate fitness.

Badminton alone accounts for 1 to 5% of all sports injuries. Injuries that occur due to trauma from being hit by the shuttlecock is high ( about 8% of all badminton-related injuries) but it is expected as part of the risk of the sport, unfortunately. My recommendation would be to wear safety goggles/eyewear to protect the eyes!

We also need to take into account the intensity of sports participation. The frequency of participation, intensity, age and physical fitness of professional badminton players are very different from recreational players. Therefore, it is expected that the types of injuries sustained may be different between these groups. How different are they? Let’s take a look.

Here, we list injuries commonly sustained by recreational and competitive badminton players:

In a survey among recreational players with age range between 16 to 55 years old, who play 1 to 2 times per week, the 3 most commonly affected body parts were the shoulder (30%), lower back (30%) and knees (20%) respectively. Shoulder injuries were mainly sustained during “smashing” and “lobbing”. Lower back injuries were usually afflicted when retrieving drop shots, sideline smashes and sudden rotational movements. Lastly, knee pains were usually felt while retrieving drop shots at the front of the court. 

In the elite group, the frequency of an injury is 5 injuries every 1000 hours of badminton participation. If an elite player trains 5hours daily, 6 days a week, it is estimated that he might suffer 5 injuries every 33 days! You can understand from here that most competitive players train and play at the highest level, usually on the brink of injury. In addition to badminton training, they undergo structured gym training too. Hence, the volume of exercise training they undergo cannot be compared to the recreational group. 

In a group of junior elite players aged under 21 years old, soft tissue sprain/strains (64%) make up most of the injuries and the 3 most commonly affected body parts are the knees, thigh,  followed by the shoulder respectively. It might be interesting to know that despite badminton being a racquet sport, the majority of injuries sustained are dominated by the lower extremities. The lower limbs being closest to the ground, generate most of the forces transmitted via the spine for the upper limbs to execute a stroke. In addition, fast reaction and forceful contact against the ground is crucial for good performance and these put the knees and thigh muscles at higher risk of injury. Therefore, it is common for players to report aches and pain in the quadriceps muscles, or meniscus and knee ligament sprains.

Among senior elite players aged between 21to 28 years old, 62% of badminton injuries are related to chronic overuse. These players have spent a considerable number of years training and competing on the brink of injury. Highly repetitive actions in badminton include the spine arching backwards and often sideways for overhead strokes, quick forceful lunging actions in all directions usually with the leading leg, and explosive jumps and landing. Development of back muscle spasms and difficulty with twisting and side bending often occur. Thigh muscle soreness, pain above, behind or below the knee-cap (patella) are also extremely common.  

While these injuries as discussed seldom keep a player from these categories out of competition for long, certain injuries sustained have the potential to be career-ending, or prevent a player from ever playing again.

The competitive middle-aged group is somewhat unique. Those greater than 30 years of age will expect declining fitness levels, and tend to have stiffer joints especially in the spine. They may have poorer reaction time than the younger group. In addition, the tendons of the patella (knee), rotator cuff (shoulder) and Achilles (ankle) begin to demonstrate overuse properties and begin to decline in quality. The combination of poor fitness, joint stiffness, poorer tendon properties and slower reaction times result in poorer sports performance and readiness for such a demanding game. Due to the nature of the sport requiring speed and agility, it is well-known that severe injuries like Achilles tendon ruptures happen to competitive players of this age group. Rehabilitation, with or without surgery, usually takes up to 1 year and the expected outcome is often less than desired. Even regaining the ability to walk is not easy. Addressing the background factors of muscle strength, tendon resilience, flexibility and aerobic fitness with a comprehensive physiotherapy rehabilitation program can prevent serious tendon injuries. 

All badminton injuries should not be taken lightly. The earlier you seek professional physiotherapy treatment, the easier it is to put a stop to your pain to return to sport. An experienced physiotherapist will be able to assist you with identifying the main reason(s) behind the injury/pain, devise a plan that is individualised and suitable, which ultimately puts you in charge of your condition with the aim to return to the game eventually. Usually with a feasible playing frequency and adequate fitness levels, everyone should be able to enjoy a game of badminton pain-free! 

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