Worse than getting taunted by your opponent, worse than bad umpire calls, worse than breaking your racket, worse than losing – is getting injured.
A badminton injury sucks!
This is THE worst possible scenario that can happen when we play badminton.
If you’ve ever rolled your ankle, you know one of the first things through your mind is, “f*^k!”
If it turns out you can still wriggle your foot around and the pain subsides, the next thing you think is probably something along the lines of –“Jesus, that was close.”
Any close call no matter the potential injury is the same. You’re thankful that whatever it is didn’t break or tear.
That’s right. Any badminton player will go from cursing out whatever force caused us to roll that ankle, but the second we discover it’s only minor and nothing is injured (in any permanent way), we’re immensely thankful.
Injuries will always be the most significant fear factor in the sport.
Just think about how horrific it is to watch another badminton player getting injured… Yes, I’m going to include a clip of various injuries right here for your horrific curiosity.
The fear alone of sustaining an injury is enough to make any player recoil in sheer terror.
Still, most of us (even after seeing this clip), probably don’t think about injuries that much the next time we show up for practice and step on the court.
You might’ve even been playing with a little pain in your shoulder, ankle, knee, etc for the past few weeks. No big deal, right?!
Injuries aren’t really on the radar until they happen.
But should you be worried? Is there something we overlook in our weekly practice that increases our chance of getting injured?
You might be more in control of your injury-free destiny than you think…
Common injuries in badminton: playing with pain
Even though badminton is not a contact sport, we’re so incredibly explosive in our movements that if you were to hand out a survey at a local club, it might seem like half the people there are capable of listing injuries – not unlike old war veterans – from their weekly battles during operation shuttlecock.
At first glance, we recognize this as part of a sport as physically challenging as badminton. Sure, some of it is, but it’s not the whole story.
According to a review study, most badminton injuries don’t seem to happen from an unlucky twist or move in the heat of battle.
Rather, it seems to be injuries developing from overuse over a longer period. Not a sudden strike of bad luck that we can’t do anything about.
On top of that, the most common injuries often happen in some parts of the lower limb area. The most exposed areas are your knee and ankle.
While the fitness components of the sport dictate that there are a lot of sharp changes of direction and we twist and turn our bodies in wild and rapid movements – most of these injuries seem to happen during regular practice more often than in competitive matches.
While we might not all be elite players, it’s reasonable to say that social players probably spend most of their time playing practice matches with training partners.
That means we’re likely prone to these overuse injuries that come on slowly with several warning signs.
The good news is that this is a type of injury that we can likely do something about and prevent since they build up over a longer period.
However, it’s a bit of a conundrum.
If we know that most of the injuries we sustain as badminton players are from overuse, why don’t we take steps to prevent them from developing? Why would we ignore the warning signs?
I see two reasons in both myself and my training partners.
- We don’t take “regular” practice as seriously
When there’s an upcoming “real” match (typically if we play a mini-social tournament on the weekends), we tend to prepare ourselves better because we know we want to play at peak performance.
We warm up properly, stretch, check our equipment, etc. – we prepare as well as possible.
On the other hand, “regular” social practice feels a lot more casual.
We don’t worry that much about performing, and we might only do a brief warm-up (or none at all sometimes). And we’re not too concerned about stiffness and slight discomfort in our movements.
We don’t listen to our bodies as much as when we prepare for peak performance.
This leads to the next thing.
- The psychology of pushing through pain
So many players deal with varying degrees of chronic pain or discomfort week after week.
I’ve seen a lot of social players that don’t do anything about this stuff.
We keep showing up to play without making any changes to our routine and hope it goes away.
In the past, I’ve also been guilty of this, especially when it was only a slight discomfort or minor pain.
“I can deal with some pain. It might just be a passing phase.”
I don’t think it’s because badminton players are stupid. In reality, it’s tricky for most of us to assess.
It’s tricky because playing any sport is associated with physical strain.
After all, we’re doing something physical we expect some level of pain from time to time, right?!
- Are you concerned if your muscles are sore after working out? No
- Are you concerned if you feel a little tight in your movement around the court? Probably not
- If you pull or hurt something minor during practice, are you going to see a physician and start a recovery program, or just take it easy and show up for the next practice a few days later? I’ll let you answer that
“It’s fine, I’ll recover before the next practice.” – that’s what I hear most players say (including myself).
There’s a tendency to push through pain and discomfort because we all know that it’s part of the package. Plus most of us likely have a competitive drive that makes us push “minor” things to the side.
We ask, “Can I play on this?” not “Should I play on this?”
Even professional players who have access to world-class coaches, and physical trainers still make wrong decisions about when to push through and when to push through it.
In an older video clip, Viktor Axelsen shared an update on an ankle injury he sustained after having issues with it for a long time.
He said, “I started feeling pain in my right ankle. I continued playing.”
He even had it scanned, found that there was an issue and STILL kept on playing in tournaments after, with the pain. Eventually, it got so bad that he started a recovery plan.
Another pro, Anders Antonsen, ended up reinjuring himself multiple times because he felt “okay” after a few days and wanted to get back to practice.
It’s important to keep in mind that these professional athletes likely push themselves further because they have to attend and win certain tournaments if they want to stay at the top of the game – we don’t.
Unfortunately, navigating all of this isn’t easy. And misinterpreting these warnings of pain and discomfort is what could develop into an overuse injury.
So, what can you do?
Prevent (most) badminton injuries with a few core practices
It’s all in the preparation.
There’s nothing worse than sitting out with an injury and realizing you could have avoided it.
The weird reality is that reducing the risk of injury isn’t that complicated. Most players already know about certain things they SHOULD be doing.
It’s just that… we don’t.
Imagine packing for a weekend road trip with friends.
Generally, there are two types of people. Some people will prepare everything they need the day(s) before (phone chargers, flashlights, clothes, provisions, etc).
Hell, they’ll even pack a lunch and outline stops on the route for rest and refueling.
Other people just want to pop that sucker in gear and get going. They’ll roll out the door with a frantically packed backpack and a strong cup of coffee the morning of.
I’m probably split between the two, but one thing I’ve discovered about preparation is that it allows you to play freely and without worry.
If you already did your prep work, there’s nothing more you can do, and you can play as hard and free as you want.
I’m not saying you have to spend half your practice getting ready, just enough to play freely.
But unlike weekend road trips, if we slope too far to the “no preparation” side, we’ll end up pushing that slightly sore ankle or tight shoulder into an injury in the long run.
Like this community post…
The player commenting gets it (or rather, they get it NOW).
Let’s avoid years of injury tormenting us.
Preventing common badminton injuries
Badminton Insight goes through some of the most common injuries and what they do to prevent them.
When we look at what professional badminton players like Greg and Jenny highlight, badminton injuries can best be avoided by five core practices.
- Warm up
- Cool down
We all know this. Anyone who’s ever played any type of sport in their life has at some point run into a coach who told you about warming up. It might be the most elementary practice before putting your body through physical exercise. Still, so few social players go through a proper warm-up.
There are even elements in the warm-up process that not only gets your body ready to perform but prepare your mind as well.
Something that puts you in the zone to get the most out of practice or play at your best in a match – I call this warm-up “beast mode.”
We already know that there’s a tremendous amount of pressure on everything from our joints, tendons, and ligaments to our muscles. It’s the nature of the sport. If you’ve ever been forced into a deep lunge to catch a shuttle below the tape of the net, you know how important flexibility is.
Imagine pulling a muscle or (god forbid) snapping a tendon because of a quick reaction on a difficult shuttle. Low flexibility means a higher chance of that happening.
Preparation also means what we do after practice. Especially if we want longevity in our ability to play longer and more often, which cooling down helps with.
The purpose of a cool down is to help your body to a better recovery. But you can also use it to improve a certain technique that you can train with a low-impact cool down as a cheat code to get more out of your practice while also recovering better.
Usually, you do this in combination with stretching to improve flexibility.
General training to improve technique, stronger and more durable muscles, etc., is more part of a general preparation you can choose to add outside of the days you practice badminton.
This again impacts the longevity of your playing time. If you have better technique, you move and strike more efficiently, which avoids unnecessary stress on your body. Stronger and more durable muscles from specific badminton strength training will help endurance and explosive movement around the court.
Equipment (a quick side note)
This is not exactly a practice, but badminton gear is not as crucial as the other practices there’s something to be said especially regarding your shoes. As we know, the lower limb areas are most prone to injury (40 % according to one study) so having quality shoes that fit, is something to consider so you don’t slide around or misstep to roll an ankle or sprain a knee.
I’m not saying these practices are a failsafe way to never get injured, but it allows you to have some control over your body rather than just rolling the dice.
Do you already have a badminton injury, are in pain, or suspect something coming on? Look beyond the court
I love badminton.
So much that I used to be the person who kept playing, perhaps, even when I shouldn’t have.
However, as I’ve gotten more experience, I realize that it’s not always, “go hard or go home.”
A good example of that is a video from Viktor Axelsen, where he shared his frustration while being out with a serious injury.
If you’re injured, it sucks. There’s no way around it.
But his approach about opening the door to keep practicing badminton – even if it’s not on-court – is something we can use if we’re already out with an injury or feel that there could be an issue if we overextend.
Badminton injuries or temporary pain limits practice, but it doesn’t have to end it.
- Show up on the sidelines
Whether you’re only going to play for part of your regular practice or not at all, you can still show up on the sidelines and scope out your opponents.
As social players, these will be our training partners most of the time, but even though we play against them regularly, you notice things you wouldn’t otherwise see when you watch them play.
I’d suggest you take notes on things like:
Where are their strengths, and where do they seem to struggle? Where do they tend to push the rally? Are they more comfortable in a patient defensive position, or do they always go for initiative? How do they set up their attacks?
You can probably find more things to observe, and all of this is something you can use when you work on your tactics.
Plus, if you want to be extra nice as a training partner, you could even give them notes on their footwork or something else (they might do the same for you next time).
- Analyze matches
One thing that can be very useful and exciting is preparing a new technique or a specific play you want to practice the next time you’re ready to return to the court.
You can find a ton of matches on the BWF Youtube channel, where you can study techniques and tactics over and over again and even get replays in slow motion.
Following that, you can also analyze your OWN practice.
If you haven’t tried recording one of your sessions yet, this is a great way to discover ways to improve that you haven’t been able to crack before. Although it can seem weird to watch yourself play, certain things become clear once you get the perspective that everyone else sees.
I’ve improved several aspects of my game this way.
- Improve off-court
This comes back to one of the core practices for injury prevention – training.
There’s a lot we can do off-court to either get back sooner or just make sure we don’t start all over once we return. So you can always come back and look at improving flexibility or badminton-specific strength to help prevent future injuries.
Of course, when it comes to badminton injuries, we can’t self-diagnose (unless you’re a medical professional), but we can make a decision to push while taking preventative measures – and that can go a very long way in preventing the most typical injuries from becoming reality.
What do you think?
Will you start spending more time preparing your body before and after practice, even when you don’t feel any issues, or just cross your fingers and hope for the best?
- Most injuries seem to develop over time of overuse during practice, and we tend to have a hard time navigating the seriousness of various pain and discomfort. The good news is that we can likely have a huge impact by adapting our training for fewer injuries
- The hardest part about being aware of a badminton injury in your weekly practice is knowing your body well enough to feel when to push and when not to. Something even the pros get wrong. The best way to handle these murky waters (outside of consulting a medical professional) is to treat regular practice more seriously and prepare ourselves the same way we would an important match
- Even if you’re out with injury or pain you can still practice badminton off-court. Analyze matches, both your own and the pros. Look at your training partners and take note of their patterns. You can even work on things that make it easier when you return to the court again. Just because we can play doesn’t mean practice ends