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August 2003

August 2003


Cramping in Summer Sports: The Sodium Solution

by: E. Randy Eichner, M.D.
Team Internist, University of Oklahoma
© August 2003

The adult body contains 200 to 250 grams of salt (sodium chloride), which is about a half-pound and more than enough to fill a few salt shakers. But in August football, in five sets of summer tennis or in tropical triathlons, some athletes can lose 25 to 50 grams of salt in sweat. So athletes going hard can lose up to 10 to 25 percent of their total body salt! Massive salt loss like this along with dehydration and muscle fatigue leads to cramping.

Cramping starts as muscle twitching, often in the arms or legs, and can evolve into painful whole-body muscle cramps that can disable athletes: Picture a football player writhing on the field; a triathlete hobbling to the finish; or a tennis player forced to default.

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