If you’re playing a game of pickup soccer this summer, you’re most likely already dealing with high heat and humidity… don’t let cramps get in your way, too! Before getting out on the field, brush up on these muscle cramp prevention and treatment tips.
Hydrate before you’re thirsty. This is the basic, universal rule all soccer players are taught. It’s definitely a smarter move to drink plenty of water before your game, because by the time you feel thirst out on the field, you’re already suffering from the effects of too little water—and that’s never good for optimal performance!
But staying hydrated beforehand has another benefit as well: it should help you to prevent those dreaded muscle cramps at the same time! Without the help of water, your muscles aren’t quite able to carry out their functions—they’ll be weak or be unable to relax themselves, which is when you get a cramp. Water during gameplay is helpful, but water before gameplay is a true game changer.
Stay cool. This goes hand in hand with our tip number one—since if you stay hydrated, you’re less susceptible to the effects of overheating, which include cramping. Stay cool by hydrating throughout your game, wearing lightweight materials and taking breaks to cool off when necessary.
Stretch, stretch, stretch. Stretching your muscles before your game can help you reduce the chance of cramping up—be sure to get them all and avoid pre game rushing. If you do still get a cramp on the field, you’ll want to take a break as soon as possible to slowly stretch the muscle for some temporary relief. While you stretch, massage and “knead” the muscle to help boost circulation, which can help end the cramp sooner.
Breathe easy. While side cramps, or “stitches” in the abdomen may affect beginners more often than seasoned players, they can still pop up from time to time. If they do, take deep breaths through your nose and exhale through your mouth—this should help the cramping subside.
Build good habits. This tip won’t help you while you’re out on the field experiencing a cramp—but it is an important one to follow in order to stop experiencing cramps in the future. Work on timing your meals so that your stomach isn’t too full before a game—this will make not only running but also taking deep breaths easier, thus preventing uncomfortable cramping when you’re trying to run and perform. Pace yourself while running when possible—going too fast, too soon can cause severe cramps in even the most veteran runners and players.
What you do for a cramped spot after your game can also affect how you feel between this game and the next. While you may have received temporary relief on the field with a quick stretch and massage, you’ll want to apply ice and continue to massage the cramped spot—this will numb the pain (making you comfortable) and, most importantly, relax the muscle to stop the cramp altogether.