Coaches and athletes alike must have a general knowledge of what causes and how to prevent and treat muscle cramping in order to be successful in their sports if this condition occurs. Preventing and treating muscle cramping plays a major role in keeping athletes healthy and the healthier an athlete is the greater chance they can execute to their potential and win games safely. Remember your athletes are only as good as their health and the healthier you can keep them the greater success you as a coach will have in winning your games.
Muscle cramping is a sudden and quick involuntary contraction or spasms to one or more of your muscles. Muscle cramping becomes so severe that the athlete must stop play and leave the game with the help of an athletic trainer. Muscle cramping can last a few seconds to long periods of time, which can be very painful and muscle soreness can last into the next 24 to 48 hours following the injury.
Muscle cramps can have many possible causes, which include the following:
- Muscle cramping can be caused by nerves that malfunction
- Spinal cord injury or a pinched nerve in the neck or back
- Straining or overusing a muscle
- A lack of minerals in your diet or the depletion of minerals in your body
- Not enough blood getting to your muscle/s
- Poor blood circulation in the legs
- Overexertion of the calf muscles while exercising
- Insufficient stretching before exercise of playing a sport
- Exercising in the heat
- Muscle fatigue
- Magnesium and/or potassium deficiency
- Calcium deficiency, especially in pregnant women
- Side effects of some drugs, check with your physician
- Bathing with Epsom salt in the water
- Eat more foods which are high in vitamins and magnesium and calcium
- Staying hydrated
- Drinking a liquid which is high in electrolytes, a sports drink
- Eat sweet potatoes, turkey, bananas, orange juice for potassium
- Yogurt and skim milk for calcium
- Stay active; inactivity also is a cause of muscle cramping
This article was submitted by Academy Distance Learning Faculty member Dr. Les Dutko, Ed.D, LAT, ATC.