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.
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.
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.
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.
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.