Which are the common injuries in Badminton? Types, causes and treatments
With PV Sindhu unable to play the World Championships due to a stress fracture injury, we take a look at the most common injuries that threaten a badminton player's career and what the treatment for each is.
Badminton is one of the fastest sports, where the player needs to be very quick and perform some frequent and smooth moves in all directions and also switch directions within seconds, which requires high endurance, stamina, flexibility, speed, and motor skills for acceleration.
Many people out there state that badminton is an easy and soft game which does not cause any harm to the players - but that is not the case.
With 5-time World Championships medallist and 2-time Olympic medallist PV Sindhu unable to compete at the upcoming Tokyo World Championships owing to a stress fracture that will rule her out of competition for the next two months, it's a quick reminder of how badminton is indeed a fun game, but playing it wrong and using incorrect techniques can lead you to face some medium to severe injuries.
Sindhu hurt herself during the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022 where she went on to win the gold in the singles despite being heavily strapped on her left ankle.
And sometimes, these injuries can be life-threatening and long-lasting, given the hectic pace of the BWF calendar, players are automatically prone to more injuries nowadays if they don't take care.
So let's check out some of the common injuries in badminton and learn about their causes and treatment:
1. Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is a common injury players face. In such conditions, the tendons swell up, and you may feel severe pain in your elbow and arm.
It usually occurs when the tendons in your elbow are overloaded and torn off by performing repetitive arm and wrist moves.
A player suffering from this injury cannot bend or move his arm. His arm shivers while lifting any object, feel stiffness, pain, and rigidity while stretching his arm.
- You are using false grip and techniques while swinging the racket and hitting a shot.
- Tennis elbow is usually caused by overusing your forearm due to repetitive or strenuous activity.
- Lifting huge weight while working out.
- Indulging too much pressure on the tendons.
- Not stretching your muscles before entering the court or playing a match.
Tennis elbow often gets cured on its own, but in case it isn't working, then you can go for these treatments that I have mentioned below:
- First of all, take some rest and avoid heavy workouts.
- To reduce the pain and swelling in the elbow, you can apply ice on the affected area for approximately 20-30 minutes every 2-3 days.
- You can also apply an elbow strap to prevent your damaged tendons from further strain.
- Please take a good massage, as it will help relax and heal the damaged muscles.
- You can also take some pain relievers and injections (steroids) like Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin I.B.) or Naproxen (Aleve).
- If you feel pain in your elbow while playing, you need to relax your arm during the breaks and try not to indulge much pressure on it while hitting a shot.
- If the pain is unbearable and counter-pain medications and other self-care measures aren't helping, you might need to undergo surgery.
- And one of the most effective ways to get rid of this injury is shock-wave therapy.
2. Jumper's Knee (Patellar Tendonitis)
Jumper's knee, also known as Patellar Tendonitis, is another common injury faced by most badminton players on the court. It is caused by repetitive moves and indulging high pressure on your knees, patellar muscles and tendons.
In this condition, the patellar tendon swells up, which causes severe pain and inflammation as this patellar tendon connects your kneecap (Patella) with your shin bone (Tibia).
The jumper's knee not only weakens your tendons but causes more severe damage to your muscles if not treated in time.
A player facing this injury might feel stiffness in his knees, blue or black spotting on the affected area and sudden pain in the quadriceps muscles.
- This injury is often caused by performing continuous, frequent moves, which induce high pressure on your knees and ligaments.
- Performing continuous jumping, running, and changing directions.
- Take a break from your game and rest.
- Apply ice and heating packs to the affected area.
- Wear a knee cap or apply tape under the patella for some support.
- Take painkillers and steroids as pain relievers.
- Go for massage therapy.
- Or go for physical therapy, which includes stretching and strengthening your ligaments and tendons.
- The oscillation needle procedure is also one of the best treatments for a jumper's knee.
- A neoprene knee support also helps you to heal and recover fast.
Blisters are those painful conditions where your skin loosens up, and the fluid or blood fills the space between the layers of your skin. This injury often occurs on your foot, palm, and fingers or between them. These blisters are not life-threatening or dangerous, but if you do not treat them in time, they can cause a lot of inflammation on your skin and inflectional diseases.
Blisters usually occur when you wear too tight shoes, repeatedly rub your skin against something, or use wrong gripping techniques.
These skin fluid-filled bubbles are a pain, but one can treat them easily at home with some home remedies.
There are three common types of blisters, and these can be caused by:
- Blood Blisters: Such blisters are caused if someone pinches or grabs your skin too tightly, which pools blood and fills blood inside the skin, damaging the skin's lower layers.
- Heat Blisters: Such blisters are often caused due to burns, sunburns, or after a heavy workout.
- Friction Blisters: Such blisters are caused by rubbing on the skin, filling clear fluid on the upper surface of your skin. A player can get these blisters by not wearing socks inside the shoes and wearing tight shoes.
- Wash the affected area with the help of mild soap.
- Use anti-bacterial cream or ointments. Then cover the blister with a bandage.
- Also, you can immerse the affected area in warm water, which will help reduce the blisters and heal the skin.
4. Collateral Ligament Injuries
A collateral ligament occurs when the ligaments or muscles are stretched or torn. The collateral ligaments help to keep your knee stable, keep your leg bones in place, and prevent your knees from moving too far sideways.
A player suffering from collateral ligament injury suffers from a lot of paint inside and outside part of his knee, whereas the knee swells up and becomes unstable.
Mostly badminton players, skiers, basketball, and football players face this injury.
- Performing sudden twisting movements.
- Suddenly changing directions and stopping.
- Landing in the wrong position.
- Having a sudden collision.
You can follow the R.I.C.E. method to reduce pain and swelling:
- Rest: Take a break from your game and take a rest.
- Ice: Apply ice to the affected area.
- Compress: Wrap the area with the help of a compressing bandage or an elastic wrap.
- Elevate: Elevate your leg by raising it above the level of your heart.
- Rather than this, you can also take injections (steroids) and painkillers after consulting your doctor.
- You can also take support of crutches until your swelling and pain get better.
5. Back Pain
Back pain is one of the most common injuries faced by players playing different sports, which includes badminton, and it is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide.
This injury or pain can affect the upper, lower, or middle part of your back and can vary in discomfort.
Usually, overuse and pressurizing your back muscles and previous injuries can cause back pain.
- Bad lifting techniques.
- Not performing stretching before playing.
- Low flexibility.
- Poor posture.
- Depression and anxiety.
- Lifting excessive weight.
- Increasing age.
Moderate back pains get better with home remedies within one month or two, but in case the pain doesn't go away, then you can try one of these options accordingly:
- Performing regular exercises and stretching while warming up.
- Work on improving your posture.
- Try not to lift heavy objects.
- Go for physical therapies.
- To get relief from pain, you can take muscle relaxants, pain relievers, or antidepressants.
- Cupping therapy.
- And if none of these treatments helps your back pain, you must go for surgery.
6. Sprained Ankle
A sprain in the ankle occurs when any muscles or ligament stretches or tears.
Rather than this, it can also occur when any supporting ligament or tendon extends from its place and twist.
And such a type of sprain is very common, and a normal person can also face such an injury while walking or running.
Majorly while playing badminton, a player can sprain his ankle while wrong landing, changing directions, or performing lunges.
A normal sprained ankle can be easily cured by applying ice and other home remedies.
But in case of swelling appears on the affected area or you cannot lift your feet, then you need to rush to the doctor and take proper treatments.
- Playing or walking on an uneven surface.
- Other players step on their feet while you are performing some physical exercises.
- Your rough movement can twist your ankle.
- Wrong landing.
- Apply ice or warm packs to reduce pain.
- Perform some ankle exercises.
- Meditation can be a perfect way to bear the pain.
- Go for physical therapies.
- Also, you can use the R.I.C.E. protocol.
- And the last option that remains with you is surgery.
7. Wrist Pain
Wrist pain is one of those typical badminton injuries that beginners and intermediates commonly face while practising and learning new skills.
A player faces such injury when he indulges too much pressure and power in his wrist while changing the grip and angles.
The pain feels minute at the very beginning but increases with time.
Sometimes this minute injury can lead to hairline fracture and micro-break if not treated in time.
- Indulging high pressure while holding the racket or hitting the shot.
- Performing some repetitive movements with your wrist.
- Go for physical therapies.
- Apply ice to the affected area.
- Do stretching and other muscle strengthening exercises.
- If the pain feels like a fracture or rupture, then immediately go for surgery.
- Take anti-inflammatory medications, which will help in reducing pain.
8. Shoulder Pain (Rotator Cuff Injury)
One of the common upper body injuries is rotator cuff injury, which also refers to shoulder pain. A rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons wrapped around the shoulder joint.
This group of muscles includes Infraspinatus, Supraspinatus, Teres Minor, and Subscapularis. And the main work of these muscles is to hold the upper arm in its right place and allow you to rotate your arm.
Most players (the 40-50 age group) face this injury on the court while raising their hands to swing their racket.
- Performing repetitive overhead- activities.
- Lifting heavy objects.
- Performing sudden and quick swings.
- Firstly take a break from your game and take some rest.
- Take corticosteroid injections to reduce the pain.
- Apply ice and patches of nitric oxide to the affected area.
- Wear a shoulder brace. It will provide you with better support while lifting the objects.
- And if you cannot bear the pain, you need to go for surgery.
Impact of injuries and hectic schedule on badminton players
A hectic schedule and calendar usually increase the risk of injury. However, rather than this, it drops the players' energy level and confidence, which is not a positive sign.
And are some examples of those professional players who faced some severe injuries and had a hectic calendar but still managed to give their best:
Lakshya Sen suffered from food poisoning from the very beginning of the Thomas Cup Tournament 2022.
His hectic schedule didn't allow him to match up to his truest potential and his team has to keep it a secret; they could not give him a proper rest and forced him to play against Germany.
And after facing many difficulties from the very beginning, Lakshya Sen's confidence didn't drop, and he won the Thomas Cup 2022 title, along with the time.
Saina Nehwal, the former world number one badminton player, was forced to miss many of her tournaments in 2021 because of her back and knee injuries.
Still, in 2022 she's not completely fit, but she decided to come back in action and her hectic calendar affected her injuries as well as the game, which took her down, but she recovered quickly to compete.
Having been an Olympic medallist and a veteran, Nehwal knows to overcome every difficulty that comes her way.
Many others like HS Prannoy, Sameer Verma, and Kidambi Srikanth have made stunning comebacks from badminton injuries that plagued their career.
I think now you know that badminton is not a soft game at all, as players have to face many difficulties and injuries in this game.
And relax. You need not worry much about these injuries because slight injuries easily heal up within a month or two by applying some home remedies.
But if you are facing some severe ones, you need to be careful and treat them under the guidance of a therapist or a doctor, or else they can stay lifelong or be life-threatening.
So play safe.
[The author is a former badminton player and currently a professional badminton coach and runs a tips and tricks website - Badminton Weekly]