What are the 5 Most Common Badminton Injuries and How to Prevent Them?

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Athletes want to avoid sports injuries at all costs as it forces them to take time away from playing the sports they love, and in the worst case scenarios, end their ability to play the sport altogether. Not to mention, the pain that is brought along with injuries can be rather excruciating. Protect yourself by recognizing which injuries are the most frequent in your sport – knowledge is power! Read on to find out what the most common badminton injuries are, what specific actions cause them, and how to be proactive in preventing them from happening to you!

The most common injuries in badminton are ankle sprains, tennis elbows, rotator cuff injuries, jumper’s knees, and achilles tendon ruptures. To prevent the common injuries in badminton, players need to learn what causes the common injuries, be able to detect early warning signs and symptoms of the common injuries, strengthen the direct and surrounding muscles involved in the common injuries, and finally use and wear proper badminton equipment.

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1. Ankle Sprains

What is an Ankle Sprain?

An ankle sprain occurs when there is damage to the ligaments and other soft tissues that surround the ankle, which connect the bones of the foot to the leg. The damaged ligaments cause bleeding within the tissues which in turn leads to swelling around the ankle. Typically, the damaged ligaments in an ankle sprain are located on the outside of the ankle.

Ankle Sprain

Causes of Ankle Sprains in Badminton

Badminton is a fast-paced sport that requires players to be attentive and on their toes in order to react to the shots of their opponents. Ankle sprains occur when a player’s feet are caught during sudden foot movements and the ankle rolls over in a player’s attempt to find their footing. When the footing is lost, the ankle is forced to carry the weight of the player, which places immense stress on the ligaments on the outside of the ankle. These ligaments may then tear in its overcompensation to support the player’s body weight. This typically occurs when you move your feet quickly through sudden stopping, jumping, turning or landing. Furthermore, improper shoes may compromise a player’s control of their feet and trigger a sprained ankle if they provide too little or too much grip.

Signs/Symptoms of Ankle Sprains

The main characteristics of an ankle sprain are swelling around the ankle and appearing reddish. The ankle with the potential sprain may feel warm and tender on the inside or outside of the ankle, depending on where the damaged ligaments are located. Furthermore, players will find it difficult to place their weight on the foot with the injured ankle, where they may typically be able to pivot their weight between both feet.

Prevention of Ankle Sprains

Beyond being extra cautious and aware of your feet during badminton, we may not always have the mental capacity to track the million and one things that happen during a rally. As such, we have 4 suggestions for you to try out to prevent an ankle sprain:

1. Warm-up with ankle rolls. A common practice for badminton players is to warm-up by performing ankle rolls. This is not to be confused with rolling your ankle, which leads to ankle sprains. For a demonstration of this warm-up exercise, check out the following video:

2. Purchase an ankle brace. The purpose of an ankle brace is to compress the ankle so that it restricts the ankle’s range of movement. Through its limitations on movement, an ankle brace serves as a reminder for players to be mindful of when the ankle is about to experience a roll-over. Ankle sprains are also easy to re-injure, so adding an ankle brace to your sports attire would be a solid decision.

3. Tape your ankle. Taping your ankle has similar use cases to that of bracing your ankle, and comes down to player preference. Taping the ankle provides stabilization to the ankle itself and restricts the range of motion the player’s ankle may have.

4. Obtain proper badminton shoes. To address the risk of having a pair of shoes that provides too little or too much grip on the ground, we recommend buying shoes made specifically for badminton. Pick shoes that are comfortable, provide enough padding, and most importantly focus on giving support to your ankle. In contrast to tennis shoes, badminton shoes are designed to give your ankle mobility to adapt to the various foot movements in badminton, while fastening the rest of the foot to prevent injuries.

2. Tennis Elbow

What is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow is inflammation of the tendons along the humerus (upper arm) bone that persists on the outside of your elbow. Inflammation is the body’s response to fight against things that hurt it like injury or infections in its attempt at recovery.

Tennis Elbow
Impacted muscles in a tennis elbow injury.

Causes of Tennis Elbow in Badminton

Tennis elbow is a consequence of continuous over-usage of the muscles around the elbow. Prolonged gripping of a badminton racket will keep your forearm muscles engaged, while wrist extensions through back-hand clears or smashes will utilize your wrist muscles. Over-usage of these muscles plus the lack of rest and recovery will result in inflammation. Furthermore, racket grips that are too small for your hand forces you to grip harder, which accelerates the development of tennis elbow.

Signs/Symptoms of Tennis Elbow

You may be at the mercy of tennis elbow if you start experiencing range from mild to severe pain on the outside of your elbow. When extending your arm, you may experience stiffness around the elbow, while bending your arm causes pain around the same area. Most telling is when you are performing gripping actions and pain is felt, such as when you are opening a jar of food or turning the handle of a door.

Prevention of Tennis Elbow

As tennis elbow is a result of over-usage of the muscles around the outside of the elbow, the general prevention tip is simply to rest and know your body’s limits. While fatigue and muscle soreness are normal results of physical output, sharp pains should raise red flags. While badminton players get more into the sport, there is a desire to play more frequently. Keep in mind that you want to gradually scale up the frequency of play instead of flipping a switch overnight. Here are 3 helpful prevention tips:

1. Stretch between games and badminton sessions. Two stretches to try are the wrist extensor stretch and wrist flexor stretch, both with elbow extension – check out this video for a tutorial.

2. Purchase a tennis elbow strap. The tennis elbow strap provides compression to the upper forearm, absorbing the force that would otherwise be transmitted to the tendon. This in turn would help reduce the inflammation within the tendons that contribute to tennis elbow.

3. Wrist and upper forearm strengthening exercises. Preemptively building your wrist and upper forearm strength will help to prevent tennis elbow. Players can try wrist curls with dumbbells or plate curls.

3. Rotator Cuff Tear

What is a Rotator Cuff Tear?

A rotator cuff tear can happen in any of the four rotator cuff muscles around the shoulder joint, which keeps the bone of the upper arm within the shoulder socket. Similar to the tennis elbow, rotator cuff injuries are spurred by over-usage and presents itself first as inflammation (tendonitis), which can turn more serious in the form of partial or full tears in the rotator cuff muscles.

Rotator Cuff Tears
Impacted area of rotator cuff tears.

Causes of Rotator Cuff Tears in Badminton

There is a lot of overhead swinging motion in badminton that engages the rotator cuff muscles to execute shots such as the overhead clear, smash or drop. Primarily in clearing and smashing is when high demands are placed on the rotator cuff muscles. Overexerting these muscles and not giving them enough time to recover is a recipe for inflammation, which may further develop into muscle tears.

Signs/Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Tears

Tell-tale signs of rotator cuff injuries is when even basic overhead shots without much power behind them can draw out a dull pain in the shoulder. Discomfort may be experienced if you roll onto the injured rotator cuff during your sleep. Additionally, you may feel pain in your shoulder when lifting heavy objects, or from swinging your arm from front to back or vice versa.

Prevention of Rotator Cuff Tears

As rotator cuff injuries stem from over-usage, the short and simple way to prevent it is knowing when your muscles are at its limits. Rest and relaxation is the best combination at the onset of feeling discomfort around your shoulder. However, as badminton enthusiasts, we do not like hearing that they should be sitting out from their favorite hobby. So here are a few recommendations on how to prevent the rotator cuff injuries without sacrificing your on-court time:

1. As overhead clears and smashes are the most demanding shots on the shoulder, you want to avoid starting your warm up routine with them as your body is still cold. A typical badminton shot to start your warm up with is drives. After you get your body moving, then move on to clears and smashes. If you are unfamiliar with these shots, check out the following post What Type of Shots are in Badminton? (With 19 Examples) where we describe the 5 most common badminton shots for beginners and examples of advanced shots for experienced players.

2. Purchase a shoulder brace. A shoulder brace, similar to an ankle brace or elbow strap, limits the range of motion of the body part it is targeting. By introducing compression to the shoulder, a shoulder brace aims to reduce inflammation and prevent further over-rotation of the shoulder which minimizes the risk of rotator cuff injuries.

3. Strengthen your front, shoulder, arm and back of the shoulder muscles. Actively working on the following exercises will help build strength in the muscle groups that will work towards preventing rotator cuff injuries. Bent over reverse fly, lawn mower pull, internal and external rotations, and lateral band rows.

4. Jumper’s Knee

What is Jumper’s Knee?

Jumper’s Knee, or Patella Tendonitis, is the deterioration of the patella tendon, the tendon which connects the knee to the shin located just beneath the knee cap. Jumper’s knee is inflammation of the patella tendon, where repetitive strain on the tendon can result in tearing.

Cause of Jumper’s Knee in Badminton

Jumper’s knee is common in sports that involve a lot of running and jumping. In badminton specifically, players are constantly jumping from foot to foot to execute their shots which makes them more susceptible to jumper’s knee. A common shot which involves jumping is the notorious jump smash. Repetitive jumping will put a continuous strain on the patella tendon. Players who jump higher and more frequently are more prone to suffer from jumper’s knee,. More male badminton players experience this injury in comparison to female badminton players. Due to the general height and muscular composition, men typically jump higher and thus are more prone to suffering from jumper’s knee.

Signs/Symptoms of Jumper’s Knee

Players who have jumper’s knee may notice that the area around the patella tendon feel tender and swollen compared to the non-injured tendon. Players may wake up in the morning feeling like the tendon itself is stiff. Pain can either be experienced in the quadriceps muscle on the injured leg (even in a stationary state), or in the patella tendon directly when changing directions with your feet in badminton or everyday movements.

Prevention of Jumper’s Knee

Properly stretch before playing. Two helpful stretches which directly address jumper’s knee are the standing hamstring stretch and quadriceps stretch.

5. Achilles Tendon Rupture

What is an Achilles Tendon Rupture?

An achilles tendon rupture is the tearing of the achilles tendon, the thickest and strongest tendon in the human body. The achilles tendon is what connects the calf muscles to the heel. While partial ruptures are possible, the complete tearing of the achilles tendon is more common. An achilles tendon rupture usually starts off as achilles tendonitis, or inflammation of the tendon, due to over-usage of the muscles.

Achilles Tendon Rupture
Location of the achilles tendon rupture.

Causes of Achilles Tendon Rupture in Badminton

Achilles tendonitis is spurred by over-usage of the muscles in the calf through continuous play and generally precedes a rupture. When the achilles tendon is compromised from inflammation, sudden movements forward (such as lunges) or backwards (quick pivot backwards to retrieve a shot) can result in the rupturing of the achilles tendon. Jumping and quick changes in directions are also contributors to this injury. Players are more at risk of an achilles tendon rupture if they are not warmed up prior to playing an intense match or if they are fatigued and have decreased muscle coordination.

Signs/Symptoms of a Achilles Tendon Rupture

When an achilles tendon ruptures, the player will generally experience the feeling of being hit in the back of the leg where the tendon is located, followed by a popping or snapping noise. Swelling of the achilles tendon and associated pain will make it difficult for the athlete to walk normally after a rupture.

Prevention of Achilles Tendon Rupture

As a rupture generally follows achilles tendonitis, getting ample rest between badminton sessions and gradually dialing up the intensity or frequency of games would be a general rule of thumb. Here are 3 additional tips that would help to reduce the risk of an achilles tendon rupture:

1. Warm up by moving your feet. To warm up the achilles tendon, players can jog in place or up the length of the court and back.

2. Actively stretch your achilles tendon. Increasing the flexibility of the achilles tendon will allow it to better withstand the strain placed on it during sudden movements in a badminton game. Check out the following video for 3 stretches that target the achilles tendon.

3. Strengthen your calf muscles. As the achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel, strengthening the calf muscles can help address the increased risk during fatigue within a match. Try out standing calf raises or seated calf raises.

While the above tips and tricks may seem cumbersome, think of prevention as an investment in your long-term badminton health. If you find yourself suffering from one of the most common badminton injuries above, then you are already late to the game. Please note that if you are already experiencing pain from playing badminton, it is always a smart idea to seek professional medical advice and expertise.

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