The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Badminton News: Achilles Tendon Injury Marks Saina Nehwal’s Biggest Challenge

Posted by on Wednesday, April 27th, 2016


Professional badminton player Saina Nehwal has recovered from an Achilles tendon injury, but she says those six months were “the most challenging phase of her career” to date. We’d hoped to see her return at peak performance to defend her title at the Indian Open earlier this month, but she was narrowly edged out by Chinese rival Li Xuerui in a 22-20 defeat. Even so, it’s great to see Saina back in the game at all after suffering such chronic pain and disability. What caused her injury, and what did she do to get back in top shape?

achilles tendon injury
Badminton places a great deal of stress on the Achilles tendon – just ask Saina Nehwal! (Image Source: Flickr CC user Eelke)

What Happened to Saina Nehwal’s Heel?

According to NDTV, Saina injured her Achilles tendon “after her runner-up finish at the World Championship in August,” but continued to play on it at the China Super Series Premier in early November, which “aggravated the injury” and led to Achilles tendonitis, a chronic inflammation of the soft tissue at the back of the heel.

“It was the most difficult injury that I had in my career,” Saina told reporters, adding, “Achilles tendonitis takes a lot of time. I had some issues with my shin, and I came very close to having a stress fracture also.”

Following the World Championship, she had to go through tournaments without practice or training. By the time she finished the China Super Series Premier, she could no longer walk or place weight on her feet. After finally taking two months off, she turned her focus to strength training – particularly of her calf muscles – to take the load off her tendons.

“After such a major injury, I was worried about my Achilles,” the 2012 Olympics bronze medalist recalled. “Every morning I was scared to use my right leg. I’m happy that there is no pain now, but I have to keep on doing the strengthening – because, if I leave that, the pain will come back. The Achilles has become prone to injuries.”

Smart girl!

Electric Shock Therapy Great for Achilles Tendon Injuries

Saina credits much of her quick comeback to the addition of electric shock therapy, which we also offer here at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in NYC. During extracorporeal pulse activation treatment, as it’s called, a podiatrist numbs the foot and uses a gun attached to an air compressor to fire 10 painless shockwaves per second through the damaged tendons. This process prompts the foot’s blood flow and helps speed up natural healing processes.

One study of extracorporeal shockwave therapy for Achilles tendinopathy found that treatment results were satisfactory for nearly half of all cases after two months of therapy. Heel pain resolved in over 73% of cases at the six to 12-month mark and reached as high as 76% within two years of therapy.

Saina underwent five to six 10-minute therapy sessions in February to prepare for her spring opener. This was done alongside her strengthening therapy training, which is so crucial to recovery from Achilles injuries.

For now, the badminton pro plans to add more matches as often as she can and work on more intensive skill-building come June and July to get back to 100% before the Rio Olympic Games in August.

NYC Achilles Therapy

Don’t let pain be your Achilles heel. Come into one of our sports medicine centers in the NYC area (Manhattan or Westchester) to be seen by a trained sports medicine team and board-certified podiatrists. We offer a wide range of treatments for chronic tendinopathy, from special wraps and exercise routines, all the way up to injection therapies, shockwave treatments, and surgery (for the most severe cases of complete rupture). Read a few of our success stories here, and book your appointment with a specialist to get back into the game as soon as possible and ensure an active and pain-free future.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.