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Can I Play Badminton Whilst Pregnant?

Fun fact, I once had the honour of training and playing with the Olympic silver medalists Gail Emms and Nathan Robertson, true story. At the time Gail Emms was expecting her first child which would turn out to be a boy and despite being heavily pregnant at the time was still able and willing to do the group training session I was attending alongside Nathan. Despite being very heavily pregnant she managed to do the training session helping other and managed a shortened mixed game at the end playing against Nathan and each of them playing with someone from the session. Obviously being an Olympian level athlete and previous world champion to boot, a short match for fun should be no problem, right? You can still play Badminton while pregnant, right?

The answer is that you probably shouldn’t. You can still play keeping it at a very social and casual way but anything more could put yourself and the baby at risk. Badminton is a high paced sport that requires agility, speed and a lot of explosive movement. All doctors and health professionals will recommend avoiding high-intensity exercise and sports where you could either fall or come into any type of collision be it person or object. So you might still be able to play but it’s best avoided. Let’s look at in a little more detail why you probably shouldn’t be playing Badminton whilst pregnant and what you can do instead to keep you fit, healthy and safe for you and your baby-to-be.

Badminton is high-intensity

Whilst pregnant, especially in the later months, most professionals recommend exercise that can be taken at your own pace. Unless you decided to just hit the shuttle around for practice and not be chasing after it like in a match then you should be fine. Playing matches whether competitively or socially requires a lot of movement and excursion that would put anybody under strain nevermind a body carrying a pregnancy. Putting a pregnant body under that strain especially if your bump is getting considerably bigger might prove too much to handle.

Breathlessness is another problem, if you’re constantly getting out of breath you won’t be supplying enough oxygen to yourself or the baby. Your whole body is in overdrive whilst pregnant, you’re looking after two bodies in effect, your body simply needs all the energy it can get to support the growth of the baby.

It requires flexibility and agility

Flexibility and agility often two things taken for granted, it’s not until you stop playing for a while or suffer an injury of some kind and come back to play that you realise how much is needed of both to play badminton.

Naturally the further along in your pregnancy you are the less mobile you are likely to be. A growing baby bump and other changes in the body will only become more pronounced over time. Finding it harder to touch your toes or simply to bend over or down is the result of natural changes for a pregnant body, your body changes to accommodate the baby.

You need to be light of your feet and able to change direction at any moment during a match, not only is it going to be harder to stay light on your feet but harder to stay on your feet, in general, the further into pregnancy you are. Your centre of gravity is lowered by the baby bump’s weight which can cause you to feel unsteady and of balance as this change happens. Your body is used to the centre of gravity being in a slightly different spot and so needs to adjust. It obvious to know that falling down or bumping your baby bump is not a good idea and one of the things to be avoided at all costs, not only could you hurt the baby but you could really hurt yourself badly if you fall awkwardly or on your bump.

Changing directions quickly is also another no-go as it’s advised to avoid any exercise with a lot of sudden, jerking or bouncy movements. You’re more likely to do damage to the baby with a lot of jostling around and it’s not going to be comfortable for yourself either.

Badminton can be unsafe in certain situations

It might seem unfair to rule out badminton as a form of exercise for those who are really passionate about it but it’s not just pregnant women who should be mindful, there are situations in badminton that can seriously cause bad injury to anyone of any fitness, skill or ability. Let’s go through some of these.

Shuttle in the eye

Not often talked about but should be is the risk of being hit in the eye with the shuttle. This risk exists even at the elite level of badminton, in particular, doubles players who play at the front of the court are most at risk of this. If the opponent to kill the shuttle at the net and the other player at the front is unaware of what is about to happen it only takes a little bit of bad luck and the shuttle could hit the player in the eye as they won’t have enough time to react and get out of the way.

It’s a rare occurrence but I have seen it happen before, fortunately, the times I have seen it the person has avoided having the shuttle hit them directly in the eyeball and has instead just been struck in the face which will still hurt but a lot less likely to inflict long-term damage. Your eyesight is not to be taken for granted pregnant or otherwise.

Slipping and falling

Badminton is a dynamic sport and requires fast footwork and a lot of court coverage, unfortunately, I see a lot of social and low-level club players playing in venues that are not suited to the sport. My biggest complaint about venues will always come back to the flooring, everything else can be tolerated but something I refuse to do is play in a venue with poor flooring as it becomes too easy to suffer an injury just for the fact that the floor is slippy.

It sounds very picky but it’s absolutely necessary to play somewhere with good flooring to prevent simple and avoidable injuries, it’s just not worth it. A very extreme case but a friend of mine once broke his arm because he slipped and fell playing in a venue that was not looked after properly and that’s just wrong.

Clashing racquets and worse

You often see in doubles people clashing racquets going for the same shot, it happens more with beginners and with players not familiar with playing together. I’ve seen many a racquet smashed beyond repair after such a collision but that is nothing compared to what can happen if you clash with the other person themselves.

Again very rarely seen but there are situations where you are at risk from being hit by someone else’s racquet, the most common case is in doubles when the two players are front and back and are attacking, the player at the back has just hit a shot and the opponents have returned it trying to put the shuttle over the front player, the front player comes back to get the shuttle easier and the back player comes forward to meet it early and the result is not pretty. The front player is going to hit the back player coming backwards and swinging his racquet for the shot or the back player is going to hit the front player as they travel back and could possibly hit them in the head which could be very serious. In this case, the back player should be aware and get out of the way of the front player who cannot see behind him.

So badminton is not such a safe sport as it seems.

Still want to be happy and healthy?

So all of this strengthens the argument of avoiding badminton whilst you are pregnant but here are some recommended forms of exercise that you can enjoy before getting back on court again.

  • Swimming, the buoyancy created by water is perfect to reduce the pulling weight of the baby bump and can be very relieving for the back. Swimming is also as much as you make it so you can push it or relax as much as you need.
  • Walking, taking a simple walk out and about can do wonders. Not needing to walk long distances to get the benefit keeps you active and you can vary your distance and time spent walking to suit you.
  • Yoga, to an extent it’s very good for keeping you supple and flexible. Some parts of Yoga becomes impractical the further into pregnancy before but there are always things to do for any fitness level.

In conclusion

It’s sad news that it’s just not safe to play badminton whilst pregnant but it’s never 100% safe for everyone anyway. I’d recommend on taking a step back from badminton to really enjoy the important thing here which is the pregnancy itself. Life comes and goes so quickly that we’ll often miss things if we’re distracted or busy etc. Enjoy the time during pregnancy as it is one of the most special experiences in life and that’s worth missing badminton for a little while.

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Written by Liam Walsh who lives in Manchester, England. Working as a Software Engineer but moonlighting as a dad, Badminton player/coach and creator of BadmintonsBest.

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