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Why you can play basketball in 90-degree temperatures and LeBron James couldn’t

Jun 6, 2014, 12:11 PM EST

LeBron James AP

LeBron James‘ cramping in Game 1 of the NBA Finals is a medical issue that has been thoroughly analyzed by players, coaches, sports media and sports fans.

Maybe a medical professional can add a little more valuable insight to the discussion.

So, I reached out to Ben Wedro of MD direct. Wedro, who wrote more in depth about heat cramps here, was kind enough answer my questions. Here’s what he said:

Q: Eighteen players appeared in Game 1. LeBron was the only one to leave with cramps. Why was that, and what does that say about him?

A: It doesn’t say anything about him. It’s just the way it happened.

That’s not a medical question. That’s a philosophic question. Why do some people get sick and other people don’t? It just happened to him this time. So, if you’re ever on a plane and someone is sick and sneezes, a couple passengers are going to get sick in a couple days and a couple aren’t. Why those two instead of someone else?

Maybe that means he was working harder than someone else on the field. Maybe he was stressing his body more because he was more energetic and expended more energy and worked his muscles harder.

Q: Why couldn’t LeBron adjust to the temperature like so many non-elite athletes do?

A: He’s playing in great conditions all the time. He’s practicing in whatever they keep the arena at – 68 or 72. They tend to keep arenas a little cooler before the game because fans come in, and their body heat raises it a little bit. But he’s not playing on the playground.

“It’s 55 and then it’s 70 and then it’s 90, and you do that over the course of a month. Your body gets used to it. He went from playing in 70-degree weather then to 90. That’s tough. And his body’s not ready for that. He’s not acclimated. He can’t cool as well, and so he’s trying to cool his body, and he can’t, and he’s sweating. He’s not sweating as efficiently as he could and cooling as efficiently as he could.

Q: One LeBron left the game, could he or the Heat have done something differently to get him back on the court?

A: There’s really not enough time in that last four or five minutes of the game to get him better. It’s the equivalent of having an NFL player going in at halftime and getting IV fluids and getting back out there the second half.

What happens is the muscles become inflamed, and they go into spasm. It’s usually the large muscles that go into spasm, so a runner or basketball player, though they use their upper body, it’s going to be their legs and their quads and their hamstrings that get tight – their major jumping muscles.

So, you not only have to get the muscles stretched out and decrease the inflammation, but you also have to replace the fluids. If he’s not vomiting, he can take the fluids in by mouth, but a lot of times, if you want an elite athlete back quickly, you probably have to do IV fluids.

Is LeBron more susceptible to cramps because he’s so muscular?

A: No. He went into cramps, because he got dehydrated.

Q: LeBron has dealt with cramps before during games. Could there be something about his body that makes him more susceptible?

A: Not really.

Just the way it is, and that’s not a very satisfying answer.

Q: Is it possible he wasn’t hydrated enough entering the game?

A: I don’t know. He’s an elite athlete, and he knows his body well.

What we tell athletes who are both elite and non-elite is you have to let urine be your guide. When you’re body’s well hydrated, you’re kidneys make urine because there’s a lot of water in your body, so your urine comes out clear. When you become a little dehydrated, it becomes more concentrated, so it will come out a little bit more yellow.

Q: So any accusation LeBron didn’t properly hydrate before the game is baseless unless the accuser inspected LeBron’s urine first?

A: That’s right.

The big key is he’s an elite athlete. He knows his body. He was put in an unfair situation.

Let’s look at elite athletes who are in heat all the time – marathon runners. You get race days that go from 65 to 90 or 80, and all of a sudden, people are dropping on the course and pulling out in Olympic marathons. You wouldn’t say, “Well, they’re not prepared or they’re not elite.”

When you’re put into environments where you don’t know how to function and your body is not acclimated to it, you may not do well. And that’s not fair to blame the athlete for the environment.

Q: What does LeBron need to do before Game 2 Sunday, and is that enough time for him to fully recover?

A: It should be behind him by Sunday. And what should he do? Not play in an arena that’s 90 degrees.

Q: That’s it? He can go back to his normal training routine, and it will take care of itself?

A: That’s right. His muscles might be a little sorer than they would be, but no sorer than playing extra basketball. He should be ready to go and play well, but he may be more fatigued for a day or two. So, today and tomorrow, he may be a little bit more tired. He may have to work a harder at rest than he normally would.

  1. bucrightoff - Jun 6, 2014 at 12:21 PM

    Well at least we know what Miami fans/LeBron defenders will be using as an excuse when they lose this series. “But, but, if LeBron didn’t cramp up the Heat win game 1 and then sweep and then blah blah blah”

    Here’s the obvious question: Whose fault is it LeBron cramped up? Because every other player on the floor did fine, the best athlete on the floor, by far, did not. Worth pondering.

    • borderline1988 - Jun 6, 2014 at 12:32 PM

      No it’s not worth pondering.
      As the doctor above said, sometimes it’s jsut by chance. It sucks that Lebron was on the bench for most of the 4th, because it was a close game at that point.

    • redbullenergydrink - Jun 6, 2014 at 12:55 PM

      How many other players on the court are asked to do as much as Lebron? Not one. Regardless of what happened, I think all fans (aside from the ones of the Spurs) wanted to see Lebron in the game into the final minutes of the 4th quarter. We all know it would have went down to the wire if this was the case.

      • duhwighthoward - Jun 6, 2014 at 2:33 PM

        but he didn’t have the heart, so we’ll never know

      • lawson1974 - Jun 7, 2014 at 12:35 AM

        Plenty of players played as many minutes

      • redbullenergydrink - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:55 PM

        lawson, you are completely blind if you think anyone on the court plays as many minutes as James.

    • bbbmf - Jun 6, 2014 at 1:28 PM

      It’s not about being a Miami fan or a LeBron defender – I am neither. It’s about the fact that muscle cramps happen and when they do there’s little you can do in the immediate short-term to get back in the fray. I would submit however that of all the athletes who played last night, James probably expended the most amount of energy over the longest period, it’s just a fact of what he does for his team.

      • lbeezyse - Jun 6, 2014 at 2:21 PM

        I’d like to think Lebron played about the same minutes as all the other starters up to that point. To say he expended the most amount of energy is laughable. T Parker played 37 min which is about the same as Lebron would have played had he toughed it out. I think that Tony does quite a bit more running around than Lebron does. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

      • duhwighthoward - Jun 6, 2014 at 2:36 PM

        @bbbmf, What a ridiculous hypothesis. Why doesn’t Russell Westbrook need to be helped off the court every game? I’ll just leave it at that because I could go on and on picking you apart.

      • bbbmf - Jun 6, 2014 at 3:49 PM

        - lbeezyse/ duhwighthoward – Re-read my comment: I didn’t say he played more minutes, I said he “expended the most amount of energy over the longest period.”

        First, I’m sure you’d agree he logs the most minutes for his team right? Is that something that doesn’t warrant argument? Good. Now watch the Heat play….I mean actually watch the game and watch what James does play-to-play specifically in transition and on the defensive end. Honestly I don’t understand the difficulty in explaining this.

        On the Westbrook statement – Um no, Russell did not need to be helped off the court every game and neither has James. Of course you’re oblivious to the circumstances surrounding last nights events right?

      • duhwighthoward - Jun 6, 2014 at 6:54 PM

        I ball in 120 degree heat in Vegas and I don’t cramp. I hike for miles in tropical rainforest and I don’t cramp. What circumstances are you referring to?

        Have I ever gotten a cramp. Sure, who hasn’t? If you can’t play through it, you just stretch for a minute.

        “he expended the most amount of energy” – purely your opinion. Maybe a spot-up-shooter would agree with you, but I saw the entire Spurs team running, cutting, passing and otherwise out-hustling LeBron. I mean, they won by 15.

    • packergator - Jun 6, 2014 at 4:27 PM

      You do realize that the last two years the Heat lost Game 1 in the Finals and then went on to win the series, right? That speaks to coaching and adjustments – don’t draw too many conclusions just from this Game 1.

    • shanydawg - Jun 6, 2014 at 6:05 PM

      Well you keep pondering then. Cramps… geez… you haters are desperate to cling to something aren’t cha? BTW, the Heat don’t make excuses and I challenge you to find 1 singular instance when they ever did. They always turn take responsibility and they always give credit to the other team. They might be the only team that consistently does.

  2. aboogy123456 - Jun 6, 2014 at 12:21 PM

    Is this the 4th or 5th article about Lebron cramping?

    • bkbell3 - Jun 6, 2014 at 7:41 PM

      Yet, here you are.

  3. nflcrimerankingscom - Jun 6, 2014 at 12:22 PM

    This is silly. Here’s some real info:

    http://ksi.uconn.edu/emergency-conditions/heat-illnesses/heat-cramps/

    Lebron couldn’t have returned, but clearly he wasn’t getting hydrated before / during the game, and probably was exerting himself like crazy (more than others even).

    That’s just it, the Heat really are just Lebron + scrubs.

    • R. Edmond - Jun 6, 2014 at 12:33 PM

      Their entire roster is full of people who have started on other teams.

      • spursareold - Jun 6, 2014 at 12:52 PM

        So? The Spurs started 17 different players this year, qualifying their cuts as “NBA starters”.

    • redbullenergydrink - Jun 6, 2014 at 12:57 PM

      The Heat’s offense revolves around Lebron. Without him, they’re screwed. No question about it.

      • shanydawg - Jun 6, 2014 at 6:08 PM

        Duh, he’s he best player in the world. Same goes for the with Spurs Duncan – Lakers Kobe – Bulls Jordan – Celtics Bird – OKC Durrant… how can that be news to you?

      • redbullenergydrink - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:57 PM

        Hahaha! You think the Spurs offense revolves around Duncan? Duncan is not even comparable to James. He wasn’t even crowned the MVP of The Finals.

      • redbullenergydrink - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:53 PM

        Shany, the Spurs offense does not revolve around Duncan. They can operate efficiently without him. He is not even comparable to James. Who won The Finals MVP again? …uh yeah, exactly. Now shut up.

  4. remyje - Jun 6, 2014 at 12:28 PM

    it’s still funny… and it’s becoming even funnier all these people are going thru all these extreme measures to defend him

    • azarkhan - Jun 6, 2014 at 12:34 PM

      What’s even funnier is all the fools who constantly attack LeBron James, the best player in the NBA. They couldn’t carry his jock strap, yet for some reason these know-it-alls feel entitled to criticize his every move and decision. Pathetic.

      • redbullenergydrink - Jun 6, 2014 at 1:00 PM

        I agree. There really is no reason to attack LBJ. He’s a great basketball player and we have to appreciate seeing him play. I’m not a big fan of Kobe because of his attitude but I love watching him play. No point in hating greatness.

      • remyje - Jun 6, 2014 at 1:23 PM

        people like you act like it’s someone in your family is the one being criticized. stop crying.

      • cwilson6843 - Jun 6, 2014 at 1:50 PM

        No @remyje it’s people like you who act like LeBron shot your mom

      • redbullenergydrink - Jun 6, 2014 at 2:38 PM

        @cwilson…

        LOL! So true! Shut remyje up!

      • chicitybulls - Jun 6, 2014 at 3:43 PM

        People were attacking D.Rose too (maybe even you). Were you as up at arms about that???

    • remyje - Jun 6, 2014 at 1:53 PM

      @cwilson you can stop crying too. try laughing.

      • azarkhan - Jun 6, 2014 at 1:59 PM

        Remyje, We are laughing. We’re laughing at you.

      • remyje - Jun 19, 2014 at 10:00 AM

        i bet you groupies are still sick!!!!!!! lmao

      • cwilson6843 - Jun 6, 2014 at 2:13 PM

        I think u need a hug. You’re an angry person. Its just basketball lil guy

      • remyje - Jun 6, 2014 at 2:43 PM

        just don’t cramp up from laughing too much :-)

    • shanydawg - Jun 6, 2014 at 6:10 PM

      Clearly, the funniest part is you haters watching a guy dominate 98% of the time and have NOTHING to say, but the RARE time he loses a playoff game… you BLAME him for getting CRAMPS! now THAT”s funny!

  5. tccoats - Jun 6, 2014 at 12:33 PM

    Let’s put to rest the slogan “The Big 3″……It’s the “Big 1″ and everyone else…..

    Wade is no longer elite and I’ll argue that Bosh NEVER was elite….he was/is a “nice” player, but a max player?…..hardly….

    • bkbell3 - Jun 6, 2014 at 7:48 PM

      The guy was a 20-10 guy who has remade himself as a 3pt. threat while giving up his pride and game to help his team win chips. I think they should run more offense thru him at times but he can play with anybody in the league. AND many players have left teams to team up with other stars to try to win chips and there have been many big 3 teams in the past.

  6. explosionsauce - Jun 6, 2014 at 12:39 PM

    Wow, Is lebron paying you guys to do damage control?

  7. thraiderskin - Jun 6, 2014 at 12:46 PM

    Why is this such a huge deal? Lebron does more for his team than almost anyone else in sports and his absence should be more about the rest of the Heat than James’ cramp. 31-9 run without Lebron? Come on man, I understand them losing, but allowing that kind of run? Someone not wearing #6 man-up.

    • spursareold - Jun 6, 2014 at 12:54 PM

      LeBron was out there for some of that run. That’s a 22 point deficit, and SA only won by 15.

  8. cantonbound13 - Jun 6, 2014 at 12:46 PM

    PED factor. No need for 5 articles defending Legina.

    • bbbmf - Jun 6, 2014 at 1:30 PM

      Sophmoric.

    • bbbmf - Jun 6, 2014 at 1:31 PM

      Sophomoric.

      • cantonbound13 - Jun 6, 2014 at 9:59 PM

        SPELLCHECK

  9. loubearkane - Jun 6, 2014 at 12:48 PM

    SERIOUSLY enough with this!!!!!!!!!!! Maybe he had a cup of coffee last night , maybe he did this maybe he did that . This is getting very very annoying

  10. nykfanwakemeupin2015 - Jun 6, 2014 at 12:56 PM

    This is what happens when you flop. Guaranteed he doesn’t flop the way he does people would be a little more supportive. Realistically I have no doubt this guy was in pain but its similar to the story of the boy who cried wolf. People stop taking you seriously after awhile.

    He is always working harder then most on the court but it all comes down to his flopping…..

  11. tdl8 - Jun 6, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    Kobe would have played through it! So would Magic, Bird, MJ, Kareem, Shaq, etc.

    • harshedmellow - Jun 6, 2014 at 1:39 PM

      Spoken like a couch potato.

      I do a lot of long-distance cycling. I battle cramps in the evenings after, sometimes. When your quad and/or hammie cramp, your leg is utterly non-functional. This is not the “stitch in your side” cramp you got in high school PE when the teacher made your fat ass run 1/2 mile.

      Bummer that it had such a profound effect on the game. Hope it isn’t an ongoing issue. Shouldn’t be, if the A/C works in the arenas.

      #ACgate

    • reesesteel23 - Jun 6, 2014 at 2:03 PM

      Lol. how in the Hell could you possible know this?

      • bkbell3 - Jun 6, 2014 at 8:06 PM

        Sorry I meant Shanydawg.

    • shanydawg - Jun 6, 2014 at 6:12 PM

      Wow – this might be the dumbest comment here… and that’s REALLY saying something. it is physically impossible to play through a cramp in your calves and thighs unless you’re a chess player. You’ve clearly never been even near any athletic event in your life. Now go back to the kids table an let the adults talk.

      • bkbell3 - Jun 6, 2014 at 7:55 PM

        Steel23, thank you. I was going to spank him but you pretty much covered it. As a former athlete long long long ago I’ve had cramps in my hamstring so bad there was a baseball size knot that was as hard as a rock and the pain was incredible.

  12. tdl8 - Jun 6, 2014 at 1:01 PM

    I can play basketball in 90 degree heat because I don’t have a vagina! LeBron’s “cramps” were PMS!

    • lmoneyfresh - Jun 6, 2014 at 1:15 PM

      OMG what a burn! I hadn’t heard that anywhere before you said that!

      • bucrightoff - Jun 6, 2014 at 1:31 PM

        Not even joking, if you search “Midol” on Twitter, LeBron’s page is the first thing that comes up.

      • tdl8 - Jun 6, 2014 at 1:38 PM

        OMG?! Are you a 13 year old girl? … Burn?! 13 year old girl stuck in the 80’s?! Drive your “I love LeCramp” band wagon back to South Beach!

    • azarkhan - Jun 6, 2014 at 1:40 PM

      Just because you don’t have a vagina doesn’t mean you’re not a pu$$y.

      • tdl8 - Jun 6, 2014 at 2:02 PM

        BooooHoooooooo!!! The trash talking keyboard jockey called me a bad name! Way to hide behind the keyboard and troll! You need to ride the band wagon back to South Beach with Imoneyfresh!

      • lmoneyfresh - Jun 6, 2014 at 2:27 PM

        I’m a Bulls fan actually. I just find it funny when armchair athletes think they know how athlete’s bodies should respond better than they do. And with jokes a 13 year old boy would shake his head at no less.

      • jpstyles314 - Jun 7, 2014 at 12:59 AM

        How can you call him a keyboard jockey when you just did the same thing? Hate has no bounds. Looking forward to the rest of this series, hopefully the games are close and Ray gets another dunk (you can hate, but that dunk was crazy).

    • cwilson6843 - Jun 6, 2014 at 1:58 PM

      @tdl8 its funny you’re comparing yourself to LeBron lol. Ima leave it at that. You’re just funny

      • tdl8 - Jun 6, 2014 at 2:06 PM

        When did I compare myself to LeCramp? I must have missed that part! Read the title of the article before making retarded comments…

        Why YOU can play basketball in 90-degree temperatures and LeBron James couldn’t.

        I commented on the title!

        You are probably too blinded by your man crush on LeCramp to read though!

      • cwilson6843 - Jun 6, 2014 at 2:25 PM

        Owwww spoken like a true cyber bully. Let me call your mom and tell her you know how to spell retarded, she should be proud. I can definitely tell you have a life outside of sports lol

  13. scrp2 - Jun 6, 2014 at 1:34 PM

    The A/C worked great the whole regular season. Just sayin’

  14. mrdry14 - Jun 6, 2014 at 1:34 PM

    It’s a fact that HGH does not react well in the heat.

  15. patfic5 - Jun 6, 2014 at 2:01 PM

    Get off this guy’s nuts. He’s the only one who cramped up.

  16. reesesteel23 - Jun 6, 2014 at 2:09 PM

    HAHA the same people complaining..”stop the Lebron articles”….”this is getting old”….”get off his nuts”……are the exact same ones that bring him up or bash him any chance they get. O the hypocrisy.

    Lol you started this mess so ride it out! Keep the articles coming! It’s backfiring on the trolls!

    • shanydawg - Jun 6, 2014 at 6:27 PM

      yup. it’s hilarious how desperately they cling to ANYthing remotely negative about him. they must all lead sad pathetic lives is this is what blows their skirts up.

  17. aboogy123456 - Jun 6, 2014 at 2:11 PM

    I think this cramping stuff is an overrated excuse. It’s a physically demanding game, and thus if your body is injured or you can’t take it, then it factors into the game. Also, Lebron had cramps against OKC and was able to play through it, so I don’t think it’s any sort of toughness issue.

    • mckaymatt - Jun 6, 2014 at 2:46 PM

      He didn’t play through them in OKC, he got carried off, checked back in, hit a 3 and immediately checked back out if I remember correctly. I’m no doctor but apparently there a lot on here, I think the comment boards are right, he quit, he’s a women and basically a pussy.

      That being said, I feel bad for the two teams who lost last year and the NBA in general, if a female, pussy is winning MVP’s and titles…

      • shanydawg - Jun 6, 2014 at 6:15 PM

        yeah – and that 3 was instrumental in winning the game and eventually the championship. what a pussy!

  18. duhwighthoward - Jun 6, 2014 at 2:48 PM

    What an apologist this doctor is!

    He is medically wrong on every point.

    • shanydawg - Jun 6, 2014 at 6:17 PM

      Wait – i thought it was liberal media bias? Aren’t you on the wrong message board? Meet me at the grassy knoll to discuss! Heat in 6 at home… LeBron gets another MVP… haters suck it – AGAIN! GO HEAT!

      • duhwighthoward - Jun 7, 2014 at 1:18 PM

        @shanydawg, been spending a lot of time holed up in that hotel room with Lamar Odom, huh?

    • bkbell3 - Jun 6, 2014 at 8:02 PM

      And your medical degree is from where? Cite the paper you wrote as a doctor on this subject and where it’s published so I can look it up,,,,, mmmkay.lol

      • duhwighthoward - Jun 7, 2014 at 12:28 PM

        It’s from UCLA. Plus over ten years working in medicine.

      • bkbell3 - Jun 7, 2014 at 9:34 PM

        I don’t see you citing any medical facts to back up your claims. I just see a bunch of your comments comparing your own personal exp. and claiming that all human bodies react the same. So your contention is he just didn’t want to play anymore even though he went back in and scored at the rim right away and then cramped up again? You seem to post a lot of stupid comments on this board and I don’t believe your a doctor. I’ve cramped up so bad i had a baseball sized knot in my hamstring that was as hard as a rock and it took more that 4 min. to be able to move again and the pain was incredible.

  19. lawson1974 - Jun 7, 2014 at 12:37 AM

    High school teams play in hot gyms all the time.
    Complaining about the AC is totally bogus.

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