Muscle cramp is a common, painful, physiological disturbance of skeletal muscle. Many athletes are regularly frustrated by exercise-induced muscle cramp yet the pathogenesis remains speculative with little scientific research on the subject. This has resulted in a perpetuation of myths as to the cause and treatment of it. There is a need for scientifically based protocols for the management of athletes who suffer exercise-related muscle cramp. . . . Disturbance in the activity of . . . receptors may occur through faulty posture, shortened muscle length, intense exercise and exercise to fatigue, resulting in increased motor neuron activity and motor unit recruitment. The relaxation phase of muscle contraction is prolonged in a fatigued muscle, raising the likelihood of fused summation of action potentials if motor neuron activity delivers a sustained high firing frequency. Treatment of cramp is directed at reducing muscle spindle and motor neuron activity by reflex inhibition and afferent stimulation. There are no proven strategies for the prevention of exercise-induced muscle cramp but regular muscle stretching using post-isometric relaxation techniques, correction of muscle balance and posture, adequate conditioning for the activity, mental preparation for competition and avoiding provocative drugs may be beneficial.
Other strategies such as incorporating plyometrics or eccentric muscle strengthening into training programmes, maintaining adequate carbohydrate reserves during competition or treating myofascial trigger points are speculative and require investigation.