Aging Bodies and Badminton

On February 10, 2011, in Instructional, by Emmet Gibney

Take Care of Your Body

As I write this article I am 28 years old, hardly a senior citizen and yet my body frequently tells me that it doesn’t like what I do to it.  No, I don’t eat poorly, or drink excessively.  I don’t participate in extreme sports either.  I play badminton.

I have always struggled with injuries, even in my later junior years I was often sidelined with some small nagging injury, and on one occasion I wound up in the operating room for arthroscopic surgery to deal with a torn meniscus in my left knee.  I’m an extreme example, and as a result I need to be extremely careful about taking care of my body, however the average badminton player can learn from my troubles as well.

Ironically enough my problem is my strength.  I have never struggled with putting on muscle, and I have always been quite fast and explosive on the badminton court.  At this point you may be wondering how this is a problem.  The problem with putting on muscle easily with a sport like badminton is that the movements and demands placed on your body as a result of playing badminton causes your body to develop in a lopsided manner.  My left quad is noticeably smaller than my right quad, and as my physiotherapist would testify, my hips, shoulders and basically everything else is unbalanced in some way.  These mismatched body parts have resulted in countless injuries over the years.  Only one has been very serious, but when you’re constantly dealing with small injuries that keep you off of the court for a couple weeks at a time, it can be very frustrating, and not very fun.

Trying to play at a high level and dealing with these constant injuries can really suck, but taking care of your body for sports isn’t just applicable to high performance players, it’s also very important for the recreational players.  If you’re a younger player you are of course less likely to injure yourself during recreational play, but once you get into our late twenties your body starts to slow down it’s recovery from play, and overall you have to pay much more attention to the small stuff.  When you get further on in years into your thirties, fourties or later, then the practice of taking care of your body is an absolute necessity if you want to keep yourself on the court.

Here are some things you can do to get your body in condition for playing badminton:

Prepare Your Body For Movement (Warm Up)

Most of you understand the idea of warming up before playing.  You’ll probably do some light jogging, or hit for a few minutes before you start playing games, and you might even stretch a little bit too.  However, when you look at how dynamic badminton is you realize that doing some light jogging and stretching is very insufficient.  You need to prepare your body for the activity you intend to do, and that means movement in multiple directions.

Strength Training

Strength is one of the most misunderstood areas of training for badminton.  When we talk about strength training most people think of muscle bound strong men.  This is not the type of strength training that we want to use for badminton.  The other big benefit of being strong is in preventing injuries, and enabling you to train longer and harder without getting hurt.  Remember, strong does NOT mean big.  You want to develop badminton specific strength.

Energy Systems

If your fitness levels are poor you’re going to be more likely to get hurt.  Tired muscles are more prone to injury, not to mention you’re going to end up losing a lot of matches if you can’t keep up with your opponents.  Running, bike rider, running stairs and a lot of other activities will help keep you feet for badminton.  As fun as it is to play badminton, sometimes it’s good to do activities off court to see improvements on court.

Injury Prevention

While a number of these other training areas can be helpful in preventing injuries, there are some very specific things you can do.  Certain rehabilitative exercises can target some common injuries that badminton players get and if you pay attention to these areas before an injury, you’re less likely to suffer one.  For example knee injuries are very common as a result of muscular imbalances caused by playing badminton.  You can strengthen your quads and hamstrings to prevent these sorts of injuries.

There are a number of other areas you can cover in order to improve your badminton, but perhaps more importantly to keep yourself healthy so you can keep playing.  If you have any suggestions or tips on how you train your body for badminton, or what common injuries you’ve dealt with leave your ideas in the comments.

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34 Responses to Aging Bodies and Badminton

  1. Emmet Gibney says:

    What common injuries have you all dealt with in the past? Any tips for people?

  2. Mel Wyatt says:

    The list is endless! Shoulder, elbow, wrist, knee and ankle problems are common, but trapped nerves have also been a problem for both people I play with and myself.
    Think the best tip I could ever give is to ‘Engage Brain’!
    Warm up properly – most people do very little warm up, and NO warm down. How many times have you seen people walk on court and clear end to end for a warm up? Or try to WIN the warm up? Disaster waiting to happen! There is loads of badminton specific information on the Internet about warming up for there to be no excuses.
    The more seriously you take your badminton, the more you need to seriously think about improving your fitness. By strengthening muscle groups we can not only become better badminton players, but help to keep injuries at bay. We need to strengthen the muscles BEYOND what is required of them, so we do not suffer injuries PLAYING. But we also need to allow rest periods for our muscles to recover and grow – it is during recovery that adaption takes place. Training needs to be planned!
    And if we have just come back from a holiday, WHY do we think we are just as fit as before we went??? If we came back from injury, we would come back slowly, so we should do the same after any lay off.
    To stave off injury, your brain is probably the most important muscle you have!

  3. edmund says:

    I have three friends who broke their ACL from playing badminton recently

  4. Björn says:

    Great article! What kind of badminton specific weight traing do you recommend? Is there any program or something you can link to? I do weight training 1-2 times a week.

  5. Peter says:

    About last year November, I had 2 ligaments (ACL & PCL) + a torn meniscus in my left knee, after sliding to the back and do a cross cross net slice. My entire body moved to my intention except for my left knee which was planted in the wrong angle. Snap, Pop Pop Pop. 3 pops and I’m in hospital like an hour later. Thought that’s end of my sports life.

    However, I was back at court about a month later but with a stiff knee. With knee & patella brace, I struggled on, but had twisted my knee twice which actually helped to loosen the knots in my ligaments. Had rub some oilment and massage the knee with a metal tube for about an hour a day, for 2 weeks. Now, I’m back like 70% of my previous speed, and in compensate of that, I changed my style of play.

    I’m going to get a MRI scan next month and see whether if I need any surgery to fix my ligaments + meniscus. If so, it means I will be out for another 3-6 months.

    I switch from basketball to badminton because I thought badminton would be less strenuous and lower injury possibilities. Haha…

    Cheers,
    33 yrs old Singapore Guy

  6. Toby Ng says:

    For prevention, a little knowledge of anatomy can go a long way. I had self-diagnosed myself (I eventually saw a physiotherapist for the official diagnosis) with patellar tendinitis, or more commonly ‘jumper’s knee’. The pain actually occurs under my knee cap (although it could hurt at different places for other people i.e. top of the knee cap). Without a general anatomy background, it is easy to try to find treatment at the point of pain (under the knee cap), but with that background, one would learn that the ‘thigh’ muscle crosses over the knee and inserts into the top of the ‘shin’ bone (tibia). With this knowledge, I can then determine that although the pain is in my knee, it is probably because my thigh muscles are much too tight and have developed restrictions from overuse. From that concept, it would make sense that because my thigh muscle is ‘tight’, that means the muscle is automatically shortened, which could cause more pulling on the quadriceps tendon, which is aggravated at the point below the knee cap. Not all injuries are like this, but it is good to understand that there may be other possibilities for pain.

    For my treatment, I would advocate using foam rollers, or if you can afford the travel roller (search online), or even what my myofascial release therapist told me: a rolling pin. I would go for softer to start, because this will be an entirely new form of pain to those trying it out, but it’s quite effective in my experience. However, there are many different ways of ‘rolling’ so I cannot say which is the right way, but I can only advise you find the right way that works for yourself.

    Some people like to find sore spots and keep rolling them over and over back and forth, but I like to find a sore spot, hold it for 20-30 seconds, then slowly progress, hold it again, and keep going until there is less pain. The other option is to find a single ‘trigger point’, put pressure on it until releases, then move on to the next trigger point. I would recommend ‘self myofascial release’ (SMR) to anyone as a kind of preventative and maintenance program. I think the best way for it to work is to be WARM, do the SMR where needed, stretch the area, then apply heat at the end… heat pad, hot tub, steam for the best results. Unfortunately, I usually only have time for the first two, but that works well.

    If you do try my advice, I must warn you to go slow to start. Though injury risk is very low, I would be careful around the spinal areas (lower back and neck) especially if you are using a hard roller. Or, better yet, look up a licensed therapist or ask your health practitioner about myofascial release. It’s like ‘Active Release Techniques’ (ART) but I find it a little better, as I like the concept of slowly stretching my muscles back to length, versus having someone did his/her thumbs into my muscle to tear up the scar tissue. But hey, whatever works, right?

  7. Jaseesh says:

    I am a 20 year old guy playing badminton in india in an open court.
    offen the front portion of my right leg start paining.
    i havenot suffered from any injury.
    Also in the paw(palace below the thumb)of my each foot a red mark start appearing after some days i start playing and pain very hard making me unable to even walk. Kindly tell me th remedi of these two problem because here no doctor has been able to cure it permanently, ithappens after 2-3 weeks and remain for 1 or 2 week

  8. Emmet Gibney says:

    I think the pain you’re talking about on the front of your right leg is probably shin splints if I understand you correctly. Google “shin splints treatment” and you should find a few things that can help. One thing I would suggest is to make sure you are using proper shoes.

    The second issue you’re describing sounds to me like the beginning of a blister on your foot. Making sure you are playing with proper shoes will help with that too.

  9. nishith says:

    Thanks for info guys. I too have suffered injury on my right knee. It started after an ardous session with a much fitter and younger player ( I am 42). Initially, there was stiffness towards back of my knee cap which was perhaps stiff hamstring. Subsequently area towards front and around the knee cap aches. Difficult to even do warm up runs or skipping. Other players and coaches have advised knee curls which I am doing. Any other advice guys???

  10. thiagan says:

    Hi Guys, I am getting a headache ( just joking, I don’t get anything, please wait till I touch some wood, and earth off any bad luck) listening to what you guys are saying, 28 year old? Wow! well let me explain, I am only 67 years young I just finished playing about 8 games of badminton, – doubles non stop and feel great. Of course if you are just starting to play any game, I am sure you can, and probably will injure yourselves, but I believe if you have been playing any game ( I have been playing basket ball, soccer, hockey quite a bit while in college and basket ball (World Masters Games in Australia in 2004) + badminton for over 12 years. I believe if one plays continuously and generally keeps fit by working out in a gym, weights, total gym etc., you can reasonably sure you will not injure yourself, unless you overstress yourself out too much. Sure every body speaks about warming up. Do we ever see either a lion or a leopard warm up, before they attack a prey? Please comment.

  11. Emmet Gibney says:

    Lions and leopards also tend to live in tropical climates, I personally live in Canada so a warm up is very essential ;)

    Something that I perhaps should have added in the article is that your preparation before play needs to be proportionate to the level at which you plan to play. If you are planning to have a very vigorous game you need to spend more time preparing. However if you are just having a casual hit you don’t need as much preparation. Nonetheless I know a lot of people who have had injuries to their ACL, Achilles and more recently. None of them were over 30 years old, and all were very experienced players.

    Warm up isn’t the cure all solution, but treating your body like that machine that it is. If you drive a sports car you have to put in the best fuel, oil and have regular check ups.

  12. thiagan says:

    And do any of these predators warm down after they kill for their dinner. Well I have never heard they do. So what’s up with us knowledgeable humans?

  13. thiagan says:

    Thanks Emmet, sure I forgot to inform you that I live in Sri Lanka, the average daily temperature here is around 32 Degrees C, a solid Stout with friends does help warming down:-) Hope I did not give u the impression that at my young age, our badminton is tapping a shuttle over the net. Which part of Canada do you live in? I heard it was awfully cold these days. But let me tell u. The most painful injury you will suffer is getting wopped in badminton by a 67 year old youngster:-)

  14. Emmet Gibney says:

    Yes Sri Lanka is a lot warmer than Canada. I now live in Vancouver which is much warmer than where I used to live (Edmonton). Vancouver is typically around 0 to 5 degrees in the winter, whereas Edmonton can be as cold as -30 degrees.

    I’d be willing to bet that in warmer climates like in Sri Lanka and throughout Asia that injuries are much less common.

  15. thiagan says:

    I am not quite sure about that, but I believe one is prone to injuries depending on your general fitness and condition of your body. Of course healthy food, adequate quality sleep, and a trained, inquisitive and well informed body and mind, + a very healthy lifestyle, will be essential. Thank you very much Emmet for your kind lines. I have to go now. Take care God be with you.

  16. Mel Wyatt says:

    Good point about Lions and Leopards Thiagan, but I don’t think they spend most of their time sitting behind a desk or TV ;-)
    If you watch lions and leopards hunting, they stalk or ambush their prey. They way they stalk, is very similar to ‘Dynamic Stretching’ which is very popular as a warm-up. They also often play-fight (lions) or stretch and groom after a kill.
    I also think they are super-charged with adrenaline before a kill, which certainly helps!
    We have all gone on cold or left straight away for a beer afterwards and got away with it, but I do think the smart money is on a warm-up to help avoid injury. But I think you were half teasing anyway: you admit that you keep yourself fit so that you can fully enjoy your sport, which is what (hopefully!)we all do.
    By the way, I have a friend who is now 73 and she still gets around the court better than some youngsters I know!

  17. Frank says:

    interesting articles from all you children about keeping fit, warm-ups,cool downs,etc. As a seventy seven year old, playing and coaching three/four times a week,I find that keeps me fit enough for playing socially.
    When playing league, I find swimming is great for toning,and running in deep water several times a week certainly builds up the auld cardio system and gives me all the stretching and muscle building I need. Then there is the old and tried and true method of match fitness and that is to play matches, preferrably with a player above your own standard.

    Good luck, Frank

  18. Robert says:

    I am 58 and I have been playing for 3 1/2 years. I play 7 days a week about 2-3 hrs a day. I always stretch very well before playing. I also do situps and push ups everyday. I think that the exercise is a must to play without injury.

  19. Anil says:

    i have been struggling with jarring pains in my shoulder whenever i smash. It stays for a couple of mins and many time i miss the point cos i am more thinking about the pain. Is it due to a wrong style in smashing or do you think there can be something more to it? i have been playing for about 15 years now and this pain has started only recently. Any help would be highly appreciated

    Thanks guys!

  20. Mel Wyatt says:

    Hi Anil.
    Have you changed anything recently? A new racket, or new strings? Have you changed the grip?
    Get a friend to check out your technique when you smash – is there an obvious fault which has crept in to your smash?
    If not, you have to try and work out if it is an injury or just wear and tear. If it is an injury, take a break and seek medical help. If it is overuse changing to softer strings or using a padded grip might help short term. Exercises to strengthen the shoulder will help long term. Be sure to exercise both the muscles you use when you smash AND the opposing muscle groups, as it may be an inbalance that is causing the problem.
    If you are in ANY doubt, seek medical attention – your body is important and you MUST take care of it or you may face a long lay off.

  21. Toby Ng says:

    @ Anil:
    Shoulder pains may actually be referred pain from the biceps (that muscle on your arm that bulges when people flex their arm to show off their muscle). The problem is that if it gets tight, because the muscle inserts into the shoulder, it can cause a very sharp pain on the inside of the shoulder, more to the front. If it is sore on the side or the back, that may be from rotator cuff weakness. Don’t just take my word for it though, please see a physiotherapist. Stretching your chest muscles (pectoralis muscles) may also help, as they insert into the shoulder too. You can probably find some good stretches for both muscles on the web.

    @Thiagan De Croos:
    In terms of warming up and cooling down. Lions are built to be on all four limbs biomechanically, and they are built to hunt their prey. If they weren’t, they would be extinct because they would literally ‘suck at life’. Warming up and cooling down is good for everyone, and the idea that someone is 67 and injury free is great. I applaud you, but for the rest of the people (like me), perhaps it’s not the same. Scientific evidence has shown benefit from warm up and cooling down, and unless you believe your single testimonial is greater than scientific evidence, then maybe we shouldn’t use broken analogies, because maybe predators warm up as much as their prey warms up. Would we be able to say that if the prey warmed up it would out run the predator? Does the leopard do extra training so it can win the 2012 Animal Olympics in Africa? It’s a very simple principle and I apologize if it seems blunt: people have their own individual tolerances to muscle stress. Based on their flexibility and regular habits, muscles may become more restricted based on what they do in their daily life. When muscles are not over-stressed, they can still function normally, but when we need to call for them to be over-stressed, which badminton is notorious for, they need to be ‘warm’ to function better. If you don’t believe me, look up the science of ‘Dynamic stretching’. As for cool down, the concept is that light aerobic exercise (e.g. jogging) is useful for helping eliminate lactic acid build up. Lactic acid occurs when the muscles do not receive enough oxygen to function so they have to go through a different chemical process so that the waste product build up from energy production by the muscles doesn’t destroy your body. Badminton’s dynamics often make a player tap into his or her anaerobic lactic energy system, hence the build up of lactic acid.

    Sorry for the science lecture, but a little knowledge can go a long way sometimes…

  22. Mel Wyatt says:

    I agree: why shouldn’t we make use of everything that science has to offer to try and remain injury free, improve our game and ENJOY badminton as pain free as possible?
    Badminton is an easy game at social level. But when you have that competetive desire to win, you are bound to push your body to its limits.
    Of course we all have different physiologies, or all/none of us would get injured.
    But if a warm up helps me stay injury/pain free then I am going to do my warm up regardless. Don’t forget that we also use the warm up to get our mind focused on the game and the tasks ahead, so it is really important for consistent and injury free performance.
    And if cooling down helps eliminate the lactic acid build up from burning glycogen reserves, why not do it and have less muscle pain the next day, and thus be able to train harder?
    If we have had a social knock about, we have not pushed our bodies so the cool down is not so important.

  23. johnv says:

    45yo – played actively for 15+ years, 2-3 times per week –
    then ACL rupture 2 years ago :-( back on court after 9 months :-)

    Learned a lot during rehab physio sessions – have now added 2 gym strength sessions to weekly routine. (really do not want another ACL type injury – make time!)

    Just playing on court improves fitness but consider all that jumping diagonally forward and backward with full weight during games. After ACL injury just watching flat out, corner to corner plays makes my knee twinge … Asymetric and extreme loads imposed by badminton mean supplmentary exercises are really important (for sedentary office warriors – mandatory) . Quads, core, back, rotator cuffs all need strength and balancing attention.

    During gym sessions i look forward to next bad session and concentrate on targetting relevant muscle groups.

    Its a Badminton life!

  24. Mel Wyatt says:

    Agree with you johnv – the better you get at badminton, the harder you play and the more stress on your body, until you get to the stage that badminton alone only keeps you at the fitness level you are now. To protect ourselves we need to strengthen our muscles beyond what is needed on court. Hence time spent in the gym.
    Hope you stay injury free and on court, rather than in rehab!

  25. Eric says:

    A very good way of preventing shin splints is ankle hops. Another is proper stretching isolating the muscles in the front of your lower leg.

  26. Gordon Pearman says:

    The discussion is about aging bodies and badminton. Well, I am 72 years old and training (once again) to become a good badminton player worthy of competeing in seniors and masters events around the world. I know what training is all about because when I was competing seriously in Open tournaments (at the age of 50 years) I was a training fanatic.

    I can provide a list of my training regime for each week to anyone who is masochistic enough to follow it. Now I am that much older I’m not training quite as hard physically and focussing more on skills and cunning (old and sneaky beats youth and enthusiasm any time).

    However, as you get older the preparation to play badminton seriously takes longer. Unless of course you have never stopped. In my case I took about a 20 year break so getting back is not easy but I’m getting there. My body has undergone several repair jobs covering lower spine injuries and severe arthritis in right knee and shoulder – left shoulder too but that doesn’t matter so much.

    I think in the future I shall request sponsorship from cortisone suppliers since I use their products on a regular basis!!

    I am very impatient with my body, it doesn’t look like or feel like I think it should – I have the mentality of a 20year old but the body doesn’t match.

    There is no cure for my current condition as it is just “old age” but I’m not about to give in to it and just watch TV. I am now retired and have an abundance of time to train and practise so watch out all you young guys (less than 70 years) “old and sneaky” is on the tournament prowl.

  27. Vining says:

    Wow, where do I start?

    There was quote from a movie “The Program” which the coach asked his player after having his bell rung : “You hurt or are you injured? If you’re hurt you can play, if you’re injured you can’t”

    You really have to listen to your body to know whent to push through and when to stop. For a dude my age (40) I’m arguably pretty fit both cardio and muscle wise. For the average badminton player, I’m probably a tad on the big side. Stength wise, especially in my upper body, I’m arguably much stronger than average, but I work at it constantly and know when to rest.

    After four knee surgeries, my knees snap crackle and pop when doing sqauts with only the bar. Add onto that a burst disc in my lower back and doing heavy leg work in the gym is a thing of the past. One has to adapt when you get older.

    I argree completely that working to keep flexibility and muscle balance are key elements to longevity in the sport. Re-maining active at all times ( when not healing) also helps. While I put away the badminton raquets in the summer, I still play squash several times a week, lift weights and walk/carry my bag when I golf. When i do go back to badminton, I still ache the first few sessions, but it’s way less than if I were doing nothing.

    I aslo tend to change workouts when I strat playing badminton again. I tend to go mid range weight mid rep so I’m not overtaxing my muscles. If I go really heavy, things tend to hurt more, too high rep and fatigue takes over leading to injuries.

  28. nishith says:

    hi guys. back again. Have been training, playing and taking care of my body, generallly adopting the advice given by all the knowlegable folks above. Have won the open singles, open doubles, veteran(40+) and team championship of my organisation beating whole lot of younger players in their twenties and thirties. Guess call it an achievement. But i did benifit tremendously through your advice which has made me very careful with the preparation part, both on and off the court. Thanx all of you guys.

  29. Sanjay says:

    Hi guys
    Interesting read and thought of sharing my recent experience.Although must admit that I am well 40+ and only play socially .But I play to win and like to put everything into it! Don’t we all! About 3 weeks back while playing doubles changed my intentions half way through the shot and my foot kind of stayed there while body moved and I found myself on the floor with excruciating pain and lef foot at an angle that didn’t look right( perhaps u can tell I work in local health service ).this was a communited fracture of tibia and fibula and I am on bed now for 12 weeks! Besides being in pain ,discomfort ,immobility ,not able to play ,I am also at the end of ridicule ” badminton does not result in these kind of injuries”.Wonder if I could have don anything else!

    like

  30. nishith says:

    Not much you can do about the accidents Sanjay. It can happen anywhere in any walk of life. What we can do to avoid injuries is to ensure proper preparation, of both mind and body by proper warm up and cooling down after a playing session. It also helps if you know the basics of the game-correct footwork, proper grip and how to hit different strokes. So there would be less chances of injuries but like I said accidents do happen thats why they are called just that ‘Accidents’ Speedy recovery to you.
    PS -Ignore the ridicules. I can bet most of those may not understand the physical demand of a modern badminton.

  31. Eric says:

    Hi Guys, I am suffering from Tennis Elbow that I picked probably from smashing or overhead shot. I am wearing tennis elbow support, but pain starts when I play next day. please tell me how can I cure?

  32. Arun says:

    Hey guys,
    I learned a long time ago as a tennis player, how important it is to workout and be fit and to stretch before playing. The other important part of a good foundation to prevent injuries doing what you love to do,which is play sports, is to learn the proper strokes.

    I am a badminton player, and have been for 35 years. Regardless of the relatively light weight rackets it can be very strenuous, as well as cause these unnecessary injuries and over time become exacerbated. If at some point the proper dynamics and mechanics are not learned and applied consistently during regular play,your longevity is seriously reduced. In addition the quality and quantity of time spent on the court can become compromised.

    I have benefited greatly from applying these principles, and normally do not have any problem playing guys who are much younger. I use my fitness, and vast experience to frustrate them. Trust me I’m not bragging. I in fact,get quite frustrated to see how many people hit technically incorrectly that I advice them when approached. Even the ‘birdies’ get damaged from incorrect strokes within a couple of minutes and normally would last five times as long, if not abused. These people don’t even realize what they are doing wrong e.g. when you get an easy shot, try not to overreact and over hit. Your first smash should not be your hardest, unless you had an absolute clear shot and would win the point. Even then why ruin the bird(shuttlecock)…just tap it in. The first smash should bring a weak return, because you placed it well on court as well on body,and then your next one is yours to do what you will.
    I wish for everyone to stay injury free, play technically correctly and relax and enjoy even the longest and hardest rallies. You’ll usually come out on top! It’s a beautiful thing and ought to stay that way. Thanks for your time.

  33. Varun says:

    Hi Everyone…

    Does any one knows about playing badminton after 2 weeks post ACL and PLC reconstruction with almost subtotal meniscus washout both sides. I was an active national badminton player and had my knee injured while playing …. now my operated leg has gone dramatically thin and gr8 wastage of quard muscle. I will be on PT soon after more 2 weeks, but does anyone here can help me do something more or can advice me with some experiance.

    Thanks
    Varun

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