Heat cramps: fluid and electrolyte challenges during tennis in the heat

J Sci Med Sport. 2003 Mar;6(1):19-27. doi: 10.1016/s1440-2440(03)80005-1.


Sweat losses during tennis can be considerable. And while most players make a genuine effort to stay well hydrated to maintain performance and reduce the risk of heat illness, regular and copious water intake is often not enough. Besides an extraordinary water loss, extensive sweating can lead to a concomitant large electrolyte deficit too--particularly for sodium. Although a variety of other mineral deficiencies and physiological conditions are purported to cause muscle cramps, evidence suggests that, when a tennis player cramps in warm to hot weather, extensive and repeated sweating during the current and previous matches and a consequent sodium deficit are usually the primary contributing factors. Heat cramps often begin as subtle "twitches" or fasciculations in one or more voluntary muscles and, unless treated, can rapidly progress to widespread debilitating muscle spasms that leave an afflicted player on the court writhing in pain. If sufficient preventive measures are taken well before and during play, such cramping is avoidable in most cases. Appropriate and sufficient salt and fluid intake will enhance rehydration and fluid distribution throughout a player's body, so that heat cramps can be completely averted, even during long matches in the most challenging environments.

MeSH terms

  • Dehydration / physiopathology
  • Fluid Therapy*
  • Heat Stress Disorders / physiopathology
  • Heat Stress Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Tennis / injuries*