How can we avoid gametime leg cramps?
September 19, 2008 9:21 AM   Subscribe

What is causing leg cramps in a strong and healthy high school athlete 3rd quarter of every daytime game?

My son is a high school athlete playing football. He's not going to the NFL, but he's a big fish in his little pond. He plays offense, defense and special teams (kicking). The problem is leg cramps. Beginning last Fall, in virtually every daytime game he develops debilitating leg cramps in the third quarter. Always daytime games, not night games, not during regular practice or summertime doubles, and always in the third quarter. The first time it happened he ended up on an IV in the ER. Here is what he's tried:
- Stretching (obviously)
- Drinking a gallon of water mixed w/Gatorade each of the three days preceding game day, and gatorade game day.
- Drinking Pedialyte
- Potassium supplements
- Multivitamins
- Bananas
- Pickle juice on game day

Last Saturday was his first season game and, sure enough, down he went in the third quarter. He went to a sports medicine doctor earlier this week, but he didn't offer much help. Bloodwork done earlier this week turned up nothing. The pediatrician didn't have anything else to suggest, either. Neither of the two doctors actually seems to be taking my son seriously.

HS Football is a short season and this is his last year. Can anyone offer any additional suggestions so he can enjoy it?
posted by Breav to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total)
I always get muscle cramps playing in ultimate frisbee tournaments. I always hydrated, ate lots of bananas and salty foods while playing and even days before but still got them. I just recently heard that magnesium is one of the ways to combat this problem and it works almost immdiately. Haven't tested it out but have seen some articles on it on the web and a friend who was a midwife in germany swears by it. She said rolaids are a good source. Can anyone verify this?
posted by skimides at 9:38 AM on September 19, 2008

Funny, I had a four day stretch with calf cramps in each leg (oddly alternating one day left, next right, then back) and my friend-who-is-a-doctor recommended magnesium for me too.

I'm still a little tight after five days, but no cramps. I'm on two pills @ 250mg each morning and night. Working okay though.
posted by GamblingBlues at 9:40 AM on September 19, 2008

The "always in the third quarter, never at practice" could be the key. He's resting at halftime and tightening up. Try to keep him moving. Some NFL players ride stationary bikes between plays.

Also, throw out the pickle juice and sports drinks. Drink plain water and take multivitamins-multimineral supplements and eat bananas and oranges (also high in potassium).

Finally, try a different set of shoes, or a different ankle and knee-taping scheme (or try going without a lot of taping).
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:53 AM on September 19, 2008

Oh, and don't drink too much water, either. Hyper-hydration can be a problem, too, and can undo the good that mineral supplements can do.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:55 AM on September 19, 2008

According to, low calcium can also cause muscle cramps.
posted by VeritableSaintOfBrevity at 10:00 AM on September 19, 2008

Isn't caffeine something that can contribute to these types of issues? my teammates had issues until they cut out anything that had caffeine or no-doze type pills. Might be worth looking into.
posted by Amby72 at 10:16 AM on September 19, 2008

You may want to try a sports drink with a more complete electrolyte profile. I'm a huge fan of Ultima. Ultima has sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium, instead of just salt. (BTW, all the flavors taste like dusty ass except the lemonade which is awesome. I'd suggest a visit to Whole foods to ask for samples.) There are other products that have a more complete mix too. It's worth a try.

Nthing Cool Papa Bell that continuing to move during halftime is probably a key.
posted by 26.2 at 10:42 AM on September 19, 2008

Yeah, I'm gonna second Cool Papa Bell on the halftime thing. After strenuous exercise, muscles will "seize" about 10-15min afterwards. If he's going back into the game, he will be way less efficient due to a buildup of lactic acid (in repose), which commonly also causes pain.
posted by rhizome at 11:13 AM on September 19, 2008

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