Melbourne, Australia, 9 July 2013 | Australian Tennis Magazine


There’s only one thing worse that watching a player writhe around court in agony with cramp – and that’s experiencing the debilitating problem yourself.

Cramping is a common problem for players at every level, most often affecting the hard-working muscles in the legs and occasionally, the arms.

What is cramp?

In its simplest terms, cramp occurs when a muscle spasms and refuses to relax. Pain can range from mild to severe, and the cramp can last from anything from seconds to minutes. In many cases, cramp recurs.

What causes it?

While the causes of cramp are not fully understood, there are common contributing factors:

  • Physical conditioning: cramp is more likely to occur in athletes who lack sufficient physical conditioning. The less fit a player is, the more likely that cramping will occur
  • Fatigue: tired muscles are prone to cramping which is why it often occurs at the end of a long match
  • Dehydration: excessive sweating can cause the loss of the body’s essential minerals, causing depleted muscles to spasm. This explains the fact of cramps occurring more often in high temperatures

How do you prevent cramp?

1) Ensure you have a proper warm up and cool down, with a focus on stretching.

2) Ensure fluid intake is adequate and your diet is nutritious.

3) Maintain good fitness.

How do you treat cramp?

1) Gently stretch and massage affected muscles, to help return the muscle to its natural position.

2) Contraction of the muscles that oppose the action of the cramping muscles. For example, contracting the hamstrings if the quads are cramping may help.

3) Applying ice may assist to prevent cramps from recurring.

4) Increasing fluids – or a sports drinks boosted by electrolytes – will help in instances where cramp appears the result of dehydration. If you know you’ll be competing or training in higher temperatures than usual, increase fluids accordingly.

How long will cramp keep you off court?

When your muscles have relaxed and the pain subsided you can return to court. It’s never a good idea to play through pain, and cramp is a condition that can commonly reoccur throughout matches.

Anyone who experiences cramp on a frequent basis is advised to seek professional advice from a sports physician.


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