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LeBron James' 'Cramp Gate' Caused by Perfect Storm of Unavoidable Factors

Bleacher Report—June 7, 2014

Eighteen men played in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Nine played 30 minutes or more under stifling heat and humidity.

Only one crumpled to the court because of severe muscle cramps.

That the debilitated player happened to be the Miami Heat's LeBron James only made the matter more puzzling: If the heat had little effect on everyone else, why was it so damaging to James, one of the greatest athletes on Earth?

There are no easy explanations, but there is this physiological fact: Some people are simply more susceptible to cramping than others.

"There are definitely, quote-unquote, 'crampers,'" said Dr. Marci Goolsby, a sports medicine physician at New York's Hospital for Special Surgery. "Not that I know if LeBron is one of those people. ... It is a bit of a puzzle sometimes to try to figure it out. It's just some people may be more susceptible."

By his own accounting, James seems to qualify as a cramper. On Friday, James told reporters that he dealt with cramping "a lot" during his high school career, even undergoing a battery of tests at the time. James was also hampered by leg cramps in Game 4 of the 2012 Finals and has dealt with the problem periodically throughout his NBA career.

Yet even with that history and a general knowledge of how to avoid the problem (primarily, by keeping hydrated), James fell victim to cramping again Thursday night when his left leg seized up in the fourth quarter, forcing him out of the game.

It quite possibly cost the Heat the win.

Trainers can try to work out a cramp—as the Heat's staff did with James on the bench Thursday night—"but you mostly just have to wait for it to pass," Goolsby said. "And then the muscle is tight afterward, and it doesn't take much to get it to cramp again."

That brings us to the other vexing question: Since James knows he is susceptible to cramping, couldn't he have anticipated the problem and prevented it by loading up on electrolytes and hydrating before the game?

Not necessarily.

"You could do everything right and still have things happen," Goolsby said.

She added, "Sometimes we can identify issues, and sometimes we can't... Let's say he had a lot of cramping and then somebody said, 'You should take more salt in during the day of games.' And maybe that helped him. But for some people, it doesn't. It's really sometimes a challenging thing, and it's hard for people who are crampers. Clearly, he's gotten over it because it's not happening on a regular basis."

Read the full article on bleacherreport.com


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