Badminton injuries are usually overuse injuries which develop from repeated overhead movements. Injuries to the shoulder, elbow, wrist, knees and ankle are common.
Injuries to the lower limb can also occur due to the high proportion of jumping and quick changes of direction.
Tennis elbow also known as lateral epicondylitis it is more of a generaic term for pain on the outside of the elbow of which there can be a number of causes. A poor backhand technique where the player as a soft or bent wrist can cause tennis elbow although it is even more common through repetitive strain in daily activities such as typing on a keyboard, using a screwdriver or gripping heavy objects. Read more on tennis elbow treatment.
Throwers elbow (Golfer's elbow) or medial epicondylitis is an injury similar to tennis elbow but causing pain on the inside of the elbow instead. It is sometimes known as throwers elbow. Symptoms often come on gradually through overuse although acute injuries can occur to pitchers who throw too hard too soon or with bad technique. Read more on Golfer's elbow causes and treatment.
RSI / Wrist tendonitis
RSI or repetitive strain injury is a general term rather than a specific diagnosis used to describe gradual onset pain usually in the forearm, wrist and hand. Symptoms develop gradually over time becoming more and more severe and include pain in the wrist, forearm and hand which may be a sharp pain, a dull ache or throbbing sensation. Read more on RSI treatment and prevention.
A wrist strain is a general term used to describe pain in the wrist. This may be due to a sudden force causing an acute injury, or due to overuse, causing a repetitive strain injury. Symptoms of a wrist strain include pain in the wrist which may develop gradually or suddenly. There may be a specific area which feels tender to touch and swelling may develop. Pain is likely to be reproduced when moving the wrist against resistance. Read more on treatment for wrist strain.
Rotator cuff tendinopathy
Rotator cuff tendonitis or tendinopathy is a degenerative condition affecting of one or more of the rotator cuff tendons in the shoulder. It is probably the most common cause of shoulder pain which comes on gradually over time or following a rotator cuff strain which has failed to heal properly. Read more how to treat and rehabilitate rotator cuff tendinopathy.
Rotator cuff injuries
A rotator cuff strain is a tear to any of the four rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder and is common in throwing and racket sports. They are so called because their job is to rotate the arm at the shoulder and provide a supportive cuff around the joint. Treatment consists of reducing pain and inflammation followed by a full rehabilitation program consisting of mobility, strengthening and sports specific exercises. Read more on the treatment and rehabilitation of rotator cuff strain.
A sprained ankle is one of the most common sports injuries and is also the most frequently re-injured. In the majority of cases the ankle rolls inwards (inversion) under the weight of the rest of the body, resulting in damage to the ligaments on the outside of the ankle. Pain is usually felt around the ankle joint itself although more specifically on the outside of the ankle where the damaged ligaments are located. Swelling or bruising may present immediately or may take up to 48 hours to develop (depending on the types of structures damaged and the severity of the sprain). Read more on sprained ankle treatment.
Jumper's knee or patellar tendonitis is an overuse injury that results in pain at the front of the knee, localised at a point towards the bottom of the kneecap. Repetitive strain from too much running or jumping causes inflammation or degeneration of the patella tendon. Patellar tendonitis can be a tricky condition to treat and requires a substantial period of rest and a thorough treatment and rehabilitation program. Read more on the causes and treatment of Jumper's knee.
Immediate first aid for acute injuries
In the case of minor injuries, it is recommended to follow the PRICE therapy principle. This care method can be applied at home for 2-3 days. PRICE stands for Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
Protection - Protect the injury from further damage. Where applicable, use of a support is recommended.
Rest - Refrain from exercise and try to reduce the demands of your daily activity to encourage recovery.
Ice - The topical application of ice or cold therapy can assist in reducing the symptoms of pain and inflammation.
Compression - The use of applied pressure and compression bandages can can help reduce swelling.
Elevation - Keeping the injured area elevated above heart level when possible can improve circulation to the area and help reduce swelling.
Should I seek professional treatment?
If you have any of the following symptoms you should seek further medical assistance.
- Severe pain, especially on walking
- Severe swelling (oedema)
- Altered sensation in the foot – such as a feeling of “pins and needles” (paresthesia) or a “loss of feeling” (anaesthesia).
- Unable to complete normal daily activities after the initial 72 hours.
Further medical assistance can be sought through either your local GP or a private clinician such as a podiatrist, physiotherapist, sports therapist, osteopath or chiropractor. If you have followed the P.R.I.C.E. principles (see below) and are still unable to walk after 72 hours or still have severe pain that is not subsiding after the first 72 hours you should visit your local A&E department for further assessment.
Secondly, if you have applied for P.R.I.C.E. principles and still have weakness that lasts a long time (more than 2 weeks) or have ongoing discomfort in your foot or heel, you are highly recommended to seek advice from a specialist expert - such as a podiatrist or physiotherapist, osteopath, or chiropractor - who can provide you with advice and an appropriate and effective recovery and rehabilitation program.
Preventing Badminton injuries
Badminton injuries are either acute, traumatic injuries such as ankle sprains, or are overuse injuries such as impingement syndromes. Both types of injury can be prevented, through using the right equipment, warming up, cooling down and ensuring you are strong and fit enough to compete.
Warming up is often overlooked but should be part of your injury prevention routine. A good warm up will:
- Increase the temperature of muscles - they work better at a temperature of 40 degrees.
- Increase blood flow and oxygen to muscles.
- Increase the speed of nerve impulses - making you faster.
- Increase range of motion at joints reducing the risk of tearing muscles and ligaments.
Warm up will not only help avoid injury but will also improve performance.
A warm up should consist of:
- Gentle jog (or other form of pulse raiser) to circulate blood and oxygen supplying the muscles with more energy to work with.
- Dynamic or active stretching drills and badminton specific exercises
Dynamic stretching has now largely replaced static stretching as the warm-up method of choice. They include drills such as running with high knees, heels to bum and cariocas. This should be performed for a minimum of 5 minutes, up to a maximum of 20 minutes, with movements gradually becoming larger and faster. This is preferable to static stretching as it keeps the body warmer and heart rate higher, and more resembles the type of movements which are required in most sports.
The warm up should last between 15 and 30 minutes. Do not warm up too early. The benefits are lost after about 30 minutes of inactivity.
A cool down is also all too often overlooked but can help avoid injuries and boost performance. The aim of the cool down is to:
- Gradually lower heart rate.
- Circulate blood and oxygen to muscles, restoring them to the condition they were in before exercise.
- Remove waste products such as lactic acid.
- Reduce the risk of muscle soreness.
The cool down should consist of a gentle jog followed by light stretching.
Getting a regular sports massage can flush the muscles of waste products and release tight knots, lumps and bumps in muscles that if left may cause strains and tears. It is possible for a good sports massage therapist to identify potential trouble spots long before they become injuries.
There are two pieces of equipment in badminton that could help to prevent injury. The first are the shoes. These must have a non-slip sole to prevent falls when you are moving around the court.
The second is the racket. The main considerations are the weight and the grip size. A lighter racket is less likely to cause injury, especially in beginners, when the wrist and forearm muscles are not strong. Having the wrong grip size can be the cause of tennis elbow. A grip which is too small will cause you to have to grip hard and place extra strain on the wrist muscles. However, a grip which is too large will not enable you to move the racket well in your hand. Try measuring from the centre of the palm, to the top of the middle finger. This should equal the circumference of your grip.
Nutrition and Hydration
Proper nutrition is important. A bad diet will prevent you from recovering from training sessions making you more prone to injury. A balanced diet is what you should aim for:
- Carbohydrate is important for refueling muscles.
- Protein rebuilds muscles.
- If you become dehydrated then less blood will flow through muscles. The muscles will be more prone to injury.
- Vitamins and minerals are required for a number of reasons related to recovery.
Much of what is discussed above should be part of your sporting routine. A biomechanical analysis can help identify possible injury risks. Orthotic devices can help. Also an assessment from a sports therapist or specialist can identify weak areas and possible injury risks. A course of exercises specific to your needs can give you the best chance of avoiding injury.
This includes general conditioning, aerobic fitness and muscular strength. Forearm and shoulder girdle muscle strength is important in controlling the racket. If you are in good condition then you are less likely to get injuries. Strong muscles are less likely to tear. Good all-round conditioning will balance the body and help avoid unnecessary injuries. A one sided sport such as badminton can soon develop one side of the body more than the other, causing muscle imbalances.
Not allowing your body to recover properly from training will eventually result in injury. Your body needs time to rebuild itself stronger before the next training session. Remember - you are not training when you are training, you are training when you recover! Sleep is also an important part of your training. If you are not getting enough, get it sorted.