Cramping your style: How to stop cramp

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Are you a cramper? If you have ever cramped up on the cricket pitch you know how annoyingly distracting the pain can be from batting, bowling and fielding.

From experience I know it can put you off enough to get you out or prevent you from bowling.

Science is well aware of the issue. We know that some people are more inclined to exercise related cramps than others. But that is about as far as the facts go. The rest is theory based on incomplete information, despite reams of research.

Where does that leave the cricketing cramper?

Let's take a look at the ideas and see if we can come up with some simple steps to follow.

What is cramp?

Cramp is the pain you feel when a specific muscle unconsciously contracts. You have no control over when it happens but it always happens during or just after playing cricket (or other exercise).

While you are cramping you can barely use that muscle, if at all. Even after the cramp has gone (and sometimes they can last for several minutes) the muscle can feel sore.

Some people cramp more than others.
What causes cramp?

Traditionally, cramp has been thought to be caused by loss of salt and/or potassium through sweating. While you do lose electrolytes when you sweat, there is a debate among scientists as to whether this is enough to cause the problem.

Nobody knows for sure.

There is one other theory. It's a complex one that says the when the nervous system that controls a particular muscle gets tired it also gets confused and contracts more than it should.

This second theory explains why cramp is more common in certain muscles. Muscles that span 2 joints spend too much time contracted (for example gripping the bat). They get fatigued which kicks off the reflex of cramping.

But again, it's never been proven beyond doubt.

Preventing cramp

Nobody knows enough about cramp to give an absolute answer to preventing them. Here a few things you could try:

  • Drink water at about 500ml per hour.
  • Drink a sports drink at the same rate to replace lost electrolytes.
  • Avoid drinking too much of anything to prevent diluting your electrolyte levels.
  • Eat a banana for the potassium.
  • Stretch every day and certainly after exercise or playing.

Cramp varies from person to person. Some things work for some people and not for others. Experiment with how much you drink (don't overdo it as this can be highly dangerous) and what you eat.

How do you prevent cramp?


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Is there any way of telling if you are more susceptible to cramping? Also can cramping lead to other injuries (strains, tears)?

The only way of knowing is to ask "do I cramp a lot?". As far as I know there are no indicators of cramping. There is a theory that if you test your sweat and it has a lot more salt than average you are more likely to cramp, but it's unproven.

Cramp can indirectly lead to other injury. If you compensate for the soreness cramp can lead behind you can overload other muscles. So you may find a strain or pull in other parts of your body as you try and 'make up the difference'.

Does that help?

Yeah, thats great thanks. I havn't yet cramped, and I do hope that I never do, so I will try out all those suggestions

Some people just don't cramp James, so lets hope you are one! Stretching is good advice anyway, so just doing that alone is good insurance.

Anyone who has played long enough in hot and humid conditions have cramped. Its common and not much you can do about it in cricket which is a game meant to play in a temperate climate.

I cramp quite frequently, generally at the start of the season i will cramp badly. Although once my body ajusts in a about a month, the cramps barely happen. I suppose this happens from playing football in the cold then switching to summer sports where the temperature is higher than the sub 20 degrees in winter.

Have you tried doing lots of stretching in the pre season period to compensate for that Sam? Assuming you are in the UK I would suggest 10 minutes of stretching a day every day. You can start in March in time for a mid-April season beginning.

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