Muscle cramps are almost inevitable for athletes. A muscle cramp is an involuntary, sudden spasm or contraction in the muscles. It is rather common for these to occur following exercise and they can last several minutes, or just a few seconds. Overusing or straining a muscle, or dehydration are common causes of this issue in athletes.
Recognizing a Muscle Cramp
When you have a muscle cramp, the pain will come on suddenly and sharply. The legs are a very common place for cramps, especially right behind the knee in the calf (often referred to as a Charley horse). In some cases, a hard lump can be seen or felt under the skin in the area that is cramping up.
Diagnosing Muscle Cramps
In most cases, your symptoms are enough to diagnose this issue. Your doctor will ask a number of questions, such as how often you have cramps, how long they last, if there are any other symptoms that occur with them and what you are doing when they occur. In some cases, blood tests may be done to rule out other possible causes or to determine if you have any vitamin or mineral deficiencies. This is done because a magnesium deficiency can often lead to muscle cramping.
How are Muscle Cramps Prevented?
Before you stretch, always make sure to properly warm up. Slowly getting into physical activity will help to make sure that your muscles are ready to work. Stretching the legs completely will help to prevent cramping. You should pay special attention to the calf muscles, hamstrings and quadriceps, as these are all common places to experience cramping muscles.
Dehydration is a common cause of cramps. You should be drinking adequate fluids on a daily basis, but should take special care to hydrate properly during practice, training and games. In addition to plain water, you should also be replacing the electrolytes lost through sweating. Sports drinks are a good way to do this.