Exercise Associated Muscle Cramps (E.A.M.C.) affect athletes when a muscle involuntarily contracts and does not relax. These forcible contractions (when the muscle shortens) are usually linked to overexertion.
- E.A.M.C.s commonly occur in single, multi-joint muscles utilized by basketball players (triceps, quadriceps, calves and hamstrings).
- Fatigued muscles which are already shortened are more prone to cramping.
- There is not unanimous agreement about the causes of E.A.M.C.s so watch for triggers that may impact you more than others.
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Prevention is Key
- Once muscle cramps occur during a workout, practice or competition, it is difficult to return to action.
- An E.A.M.C. may range in severity from a brief twinge to excruciating pain that lasts for several minutes until the muscle relaxes.
- Be proactive by staying fit in order to better resist cramps:
- Drink water evenly throughout the day
- Develop flexibility and range of motion (including dynamic movement, massage and stretching)
- Consume potassium, sodium and calcium before the activity
- Fuel your energy stores with low Glycemic Index carbohydrates
- Avoid sudden changes in intensity level when fatigued
Drink Beyond Thirst
- While adequate hydration will not prevent all cramping, there is consensus that it is the best strategy to avoid E.A.M.C.s.
- Elite basketball players can lose between 1.5 and 2.5 litres of fluid during a typical game or training session (0.8% to 1.8% of body weight).
- When an athlete loses more than two to three percent of their body weight, they are susceptible to cramps.
- Weigh yourself before and after a typical session to understand how much fluid you lose while playing: Fluid Loss = Starting Weight – Ending Weight + Fluids Consumed
- If the body is dehydrated, nerve endings can become overexcited and spontaneously discharge, creating a muscle cramp.
- Sip fluids on a regular schedule before competitions and intense workouts, even if you are not thirsty.
- Athletes can tolerate a fluid intake of 1.8L per hour.
- Carrying a water bottle throughout the day serves as a reminder for athletes to hydrate before exercising.
- Low Glycemic Index carbohydrates will last throughout long exercise periods.
- Good low G.I. choices include: whole wheat pasta, multi-grain bread, brown rice, oats, apples, carrots.
- Avoid processed grains and refined sugars.
- A well-balanced diet should include vitamins and nutrients.
- Sodium: cereal, cottage cheese, beans.
- Calcium: dairy products, soy, orange juice.
- Potassium: bananas, green leafy vegetables, yogurt.
- A succession of quick deep breaths introduces oxygen to the body relieves E.A.M.C.s caused by lactic acid.
- Soft tissue massage, stretching and application of heat can stimulate blood flow to the cramped muscle and alleviate pain.
- Although consuming a sports drink/gel, banana or salt tablet may help, electrolytes require thirteen minutes to be absorbed into the system.
- Frequent cramping may require a visit to a sports medicine doctor.
Improve Personal Fitness
- Athletes who have developed their aerobic energy systems will be less fatigued towards the end of games and practices and less likely to cramp.
- Rest properly between physical activity sessions so that the body can recover.
- Active recovery during and after exercise disperses lactic acid.
- o Do not exercise – or make players exercise – to the point of exhaustion.
- Push yourself during training to simulate intense games.
- If practices are as hard as games, the body will not need to adjust when facing tough competition.
- Warm-up thoroughly; even if you are not a starter you must be ready to enter the game when required.
List of Resources
- BallnRoll. (2014, June 10). How To Prevent Muscle Cramps While Playing Basketball. Retrieved May 20, 2015, from BallnRoll: http://www.ballnroll.com/fitness?post=1199.
- Miller, K. C., Stone, M. S., Huxel, K. C., & Edwards, J. E. (2010, July). Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps: Causes, Treatement, and Prevention. Sports Health, 2(4), 279-283.
- Weber, K. (2008, January 18). Cramping. Retrieved May 20, 2015, from Ask the Docs: http://www.nba.com/bulls/news/askdocs_080118.html.