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Very few things will frustrate an athlete or coach more than muscle cramps. They can come during competition, after competition, or at night during a deep sleep. Muscle cramps are also frustrating for scientists because they have not been able to totally determine the cause of muscle cramping or how to treat or prevent them. Early research suggested that muscle cramps were caused by disturbances in fluid and electrolyte (salt) balance associated with high rates of sweating. Although this might be the cause of some, more recent research suggests that FATIGUE appears to cause a lack of nervous center control of the Golgi tendon organs and muscle spindles. Spindle activity increases as tendon organ activity decreases.

Muscle cramps are defined as painful, spasmodic, involuntary contractions of skeletal muscles that occur during or immediately after exercise. Cramps during sleep may or may not be associated with exercise.

Most exercise-induced or exercise associated muscle cramps are unrelated to disease or any medical disorder.

Treatment includes rest, passive stretching of the affected muscles or muscle groups, and holding the muscle in a stretched position until muscle activation is relieved. Fluids should also be taken if dehydration and electrolyte loss is suspected.

Heat Cramps are probably brought on my mineral loss and dehydration but a cause-effect relationship has not been fully established. Treat by moving to a cooler location and administer fluids or a saline solution

To prevent Exercise Induced Muscle Cramps the athlete should:
  • Be well conditioned to reduce muscle fatigue
  • Regularly stretch prone muscles
  • Maintain fluid an electrolyte balance &carbohydrate stores
  • Reduce exercise intensity & duration if necessary

Here is an interesting quote from the book "Your Okay, Itís Just a Bruise" by Dr. Rob Huizenga, M.D. former Team Physician for the Los Angeles Raiders of the NFL (Now once again the Oakland Raiders):

"To my surprise, given all the hype surrounding Gatorade and like products, chilled water was still the experts beverage of choice for brief stretches of strenuous activity in hot sun. The going theory was that football players, who ate huge numbers of calories per day (up to five or six thousand), were getting more than enough salt in their diet and would not run low on salt or potassium during the course of a game. Players of football size need to drink literally gallons of liquids during a game. Since water tends to quench thirst better than the sweet "salty" sport drinks, it was the logical first choice for football sideline hydration. And plenty of ice would make the drinks go down easier, get them absorbed quicker, and even help cool the athlete. I later found out that the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society had a deal with Gatorade. Only their beverage was allowed on the sidelines, so we had to put the ice water in large Gatorade buckets."

Author/speaker and an expert in ”Sports Performance Enhancement”. Jack Medina is available for speaking engagements, consultation and personal training of athletes in various sports, professional and amateur. Jack has written a new book, “The Winning Edge: Fueling & Training The Body For Peak Performance” with Dr. Roy Vartabedian, an internationally known New York Times Best Selling Author of the “Nutripoints” program for optimal nutrition. Both books are available online at Jack also has a monthly ezine (newsletter) available free which can be subscribed to on his website. All subscriber’s addresses will be confidential and not sold or given to any other organization or group.

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