How (not) to play badminton with injuries


Former world no. 1 Ratchanok Intanon (above) was carried off court in a stretcher during the BWF World Championships in Jakarta, 2015. Sports injuries happen to recreational players too but get relevant advice before going back on court.

For recreational players with a badminton-related injury, the desire to go on court often overrides common-sense. When I talk to players, the most common badminton injuries involve the achilles, ankles, knees or rotator cuff. Clearly, playing for long periods or more intensively can risk aggravating those injuries. So I wondered, how do you assess whether you should play or not?

It’s hard to believe the reported figures on badminton injuries. Studies are scarce, rely on self-reporting and the findings are seldom published with survey methods. Think about it: if you can self-treat at home, when would you go seek professional help? Mostly when it gets real bad and interferes with daily activities.

No judgement here. Recreational badminton players are diverse and the motivation to go on court is different for each player. None of them are wrong or right. But below are some considerations beforehand.

Be honest with yourself

The bottom line is that you’ll be lucky to be on the court if you have a torn Achilles, patella tendinitis etc. But if you have time and a serious desire to have a hit, playing recreationally may be an option. I’ve seen many players wear knee sleeves or ankle bandages or adjust their racket and strings. It’s a grey area but it enables them to get back on court.

It’s probably not a good idea to play in tournaments unless (a) it’s your job and (b) your family understands because you’ll need their support. Sometimes the cost just isn’t worth it.

What kind of shape are you in?

There’s a big physical component to badminton. Higher grade players are typically better athletes: fitter, faster, stronger and more technically competent. Observe the players around you and consider what shape you’re in. The truth may hurt, but it’s better than overdoing it.

Sadly, with age, many players develop problems that keep them away from the court. But it’s a mixed bag. I know a former Chinese Provincial player in his mid-twenties with restricted movement due to his injuries. Another friend has developed knee, spine and shoulder issues so he goes to the gym to workout. My friend Ben (featured here), who’s been playing since young in Malaysia, has remained injury-free and he attributes it to supplements. Go figure.

My point is that it feels awful to be sitting on the sidelines with an injury watching others play. Ultimately it’s a judgement call whether to play or not. Just remember to apply your common-sense and seek relevant medical help if you need to.


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