by: Jose Raul C. Canlas, MD
Whether you are a professional athlete or a weekend badminton player, chances are, you have suffered from muscle cramps at one time or another. Muscle cramps are no laughing matter. For one, they are really painful and can debilitate and sideline an athlete for as long as a day.
How do you prevent cramps? What’s the game plan to defeat muscle cramps?
WHAT CAUSES CRAMPING
First, understand what causes cramping. Muscle fatigue, salt loss, and dehydration – all three acting together – play a role in muscle cramping. Cramps are particularly common in badminton players because of excessive sweating. After doing a sweat test at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, we found out that badminton players lose 5-8 liters of sweat per hour of play. This is the highest rate among all sports; football players lose about 3-4 liters, while basketball players lose at the most 5 liters per hour of play. In losing this much sweat, players also lose sodium chloride.
Sodium is necessary not only to maintain blood volume but also to help nerves fire and muscles work. Sodium depletion short-circuits the coordination of nerves and muscles as muscles contract and relax. The result can be muscle cramping.
Players in organized sports usually practice everyday. They are usually dehydrated after practice and will only rehydrate during practice the next day. So they don’t actually realize that they are starting practice dehydrated. And the deficit increases as they practice.
Scientific process requires athletes to be weighed before and after the game. The amount of weight loss aids us in determining the amount of fluid that needs to be replenished.
Rehydrate after practice and the provide the players with the basic requirement of 3-4 liters during the following day’s practice.
While sodium loss and dehydration are the main causes of muscle cramping, there are other causes. Magnesium and potassium insufficiency may also cause cramps. Professional medical testing may be necessary to determine the actual cause.
A BALANCED DIET AND THE RIGHT FLUIDS
Eat a balanced diet and drink the best beverages before, during and after every practice or game. For badminton players and professional athletes, a sports drink with enough electrolytes is necessary for hydration. In hot and sweaty weather, it is vital that athletes choose the right fluids to stay hydrated and maintain a healthy balance of electrolytes, most importantly sodium, to help prevent muscle cramping. Water, which contains almost no sodium, is not the best choice as your only drink in hot, humid playing conditions.
WHAT TO DO
If you suffer from cramps during the game, you can stretch the muscle and ice it down a little. For professional athletes, is it quite difficult to get back to the game once muscle cramps have set in especially for badminton because it is quite a short game and there are no player substitutes. So the best game plan is to avoid cramps.
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