Athletes may experience cramp in skeletal muscles during the height of competition, immediately after competition, or at night during sleep. Investigators have not been able to pinpoint the cause of muscle cramping. Most exercise-induced or exercise-associated muscle cramps are unrelated to disease or medical disorder. Exercise-associated muscle cramps have been defined as painful, spasmodic, involuntary contractions of skeletal muscles that occur during or immediately after exercise.10 Nocturnal muscle cramps may or may not be associated with exercise.
It was believed that muscle cramps were caused by disturbances in fluid and electrolyte balance, particularly sodium balance, in association with high rates of sweating, as is the case with heat cramps. This may be true for some exercise-associated muscle cramps, and more recent research suggests that these cramps result from sustained a-motor neuron activity, which is caused by aberrant control at the spinal level.10 Muscle fatigue appears to cause this lack of control through an effect on both Golgi tendon spindles and muscle spindles. Muscle spindle activity increases and tendon organ activity decreases.
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