Cramping in Sport. Why does it happen?

July 11, 2014

During the world cup there have been many athletes that have struggled with cramp. But why? As fit individuals their bodies should be used to the exercise. So why does it happen?

It can happen due to repetitive use of the same muscle group. For example in footballers, they are likely to get a cramp in the hamstring or calf muscles whereas long distance swimmers are likely to get cramp in their shoulders or arms.

It is also linked to dehydration. Because the humidity in Brazil has been high in certain areas of the country, the footballers have been losing more fluid leading to a reduction in their electrolytes. This can have a big influence on muscle cramping.

What happens during a muscle cramp?

In a muscle cramp the muscle contracts and does not relax. The muscle becomes hard to touch and there is twitching within the muscle fibres. Muscle cramps can vary in length and intensity. But it is safe to say they can be pretty painful!

What can I do to stop muscle cramping?

  • Stretch the muscle group regularly throughout the day. At least 3 times and once before going to bed to stop cramping at night.
  • Passive stretching from a physiotherapist or training partner can help
  • Massage of the muscle
  • Avoid excessive exercise in hot/humid conditions
  • Stay hydrated before/during and after exercise
  • Good nutrition is important for athletes who cramp regularly

If you have done all of these and you are still experiencing muscle cramps discuss with your GP as there may be another underlying cause or medications can contribute to cramping.
By Mark Henderson

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