During the last two weeks I have worked at the World Badminton Championships in Wembley followed by the British Junior Tennis Nationals in Bournemouth. It has been a intensive two weeks treating not only a great array of different injuries but also a real spectrum of athletes. Older professional adults from all over the world – Bulgaria, Russia, Iran, Vietnam, Thailand through to 11 – 16year olds from the UK.
Even though the two racket sports appear similar, I have observed the effect on the body can be quite different and this is well illustrated by the differences in the shape and sizes of the people playing it at a professional level.
Badminton involves the player to move through much greater ranges of motion at a much faster speed. It requires more agility and quicker reaction speeds. The court is much smaller and retrieving the shuttlecock often involves the player dropping down extremely low followed by a fast reaction to a high smash. To be able to achieve these fast movements, the players tend to be slighter in size, with good agility and excellent flexibility.
Injuries commonly seen during my time at the World Championships were to the lower back, ankles and knees. The dominant side seemed to suffer more problems. The thigh muscle on this side was frequently stronger and tighter from the repeated lunging with that leg in front, which led to kneecap stiffness and pain. The high smashes also caused greater loading through the same side of the lower back.
Tennis on the other hand requires more force generation as the ball is heavier and needs to be hit a much greater distance over a larger court. The players, although they need to be quick, flexible and agile, tend to be much stronger and taller as to create faster more explosive shots, especially with the serve. Along with this, the tennis player also needs greater strength to cover much larger distances with longer match durations, thus requiring greater muscle endurance. The different surfaces that a tennis player plays on can also have an impact on the body. On a grass court the ball does not bounce as high requiring the player to get much lower to the ball, and on clay the slippery surface means the player can often be in mid slide whilst hitting the ball, requiring more balance and core control.
With that said, I have treated similar injuries this week to that at the Badminton, especially with loading through the lower back when serving or smashing. However, especially during this week in Bournemouth on wet clay tennis courts (why does it rain every year!?), I’ve also treated several painful shoulders and groins. I put this down to heavier balls from the wet clay making it harder for the players requiring more force generation, along with overstretching at the groin when sliding out for a wide ball. Junior players especially around puberty ages, are also at risk of growing pains as the body adjusts to the different speeds of growth of the bones, muscles and the nervous system.
In conclusion, although it is common to see similar injuries between these two sports they do have different body demands and needs and so require different training and management techniques. The physio role is also different. In tennis, mid-match treatments can be performed in a 3 minute medical timeout as well as pre- and post-match management. However, in badminton, a player must retire if injured during a match and can only receive physiotherapy after the match.
Both sporting events were a fantastic experience, although “the glam” of the role of the physio at a World and National event, can often be that of long and lonely 12-14 hour days in a small treatment room – definitely not sustainable as a full time occupation!