Shuttlecock Woes

Ankle Sprains- Although still wanting in detailed statistical studies, some research papers have shown that on an average, ankle sprains constitute more than half of all reported badminton injuries. An ankles sprain can be described as the stretching and or tearing of ligaments and muscles in the ankle. In extreme cases, there may also be damage to tendons, bones and other joint tissues. The resulting bleeding within tissues can cause sudden edema and swelling of the ankle, which in third degree sprains, often takes more than 6 months to heal completely. Ankle sprains are accidental in 99% of the incidences and happen when the player lands on his partner’s foot or on the floor with his own foot turned inwards, outwards or flexed. The extremely quick directional changes required during badminton, often cause the feet to roll over or twist, resulting in a sprained ankle. Fatigue, extra body weight and shoes with more than normal ‘grip’ are frequent contributors to such injuries.

Meniscus Tear- This also goes by the layman-friendly alias ‘Torn Cartilage Knee Injury’ and is as painful as a sprained ankle. During the intricate footwork required during a badminton game, the meniscus or cartilage, which provides a soft cushioning between the thigh and shin bones, sometimes ruptures, causing pain in the joint-line of the knee, swelling and inability to flex the leg completely. This may sometimes also be accompanied by an injured or totally ruptured ligament, which increases the pain factor and healing time. Normally, the swelling and pain settles down easily for most people. However for some sportspersons, the knee can become prone to knee locking or ‘giving way’, in which case, surgery is required.

Muscle Strain- Unexpected movements, such as a sudden overhead smash, may put muscles in various parts of the body under pressure, thereby causing a disruption of fibres in the affected muscle. This can result in pain, swelling, bruising and in extreme case, loss of function. Muscles commonly affected are the hamstring, knee, shoulder and calf, to name a few.

Ocular hurt- A Malaysian study reportedly called badminton the ‘sport which presented the greatest ocular hazard in Malaysia’. Another Canadian study backed up these claims saying that 30-58% of all eye injuries in Canada caused by racquet sports were attributed to badminton. This may seem funny to a layman, since a shuttlecock looks anything but devious, with its lightweight feathery appearance, compared to the heavier balls used in tennis and squash. Although the frequency of eye injuries on an average is more in squash than in badminton, the latter does account for injuries which are greater in severity. This is partly because the bottom round of the shuttlecock fits into the eye orbit and also because of the extremely high speeds achieved during badminton. Badminton is widely considered to be the fastest racquet sport in the world and shuttlecocks have been known to reach speeds of more than 300 km/hour. On 25 September 2009, Malaysia’s Tan Boon Heong set the international smash record of 421 km/hour in the men’s double’s category at the Japan Open 2009. This is 1/3rd the speed of sound at sea level, so one can imagine the effect of a shuttlecock travelling at that speed and hitting one’s eye. It would be painful to say the least.

Fractures- Fractures are fairly rare in badminton, although some have been reported. They normally happen when another player’s racquet hits a player’s arm or leg or if the player himself falls down heavily or if another player missteps and falls/steps on him/her.