Does Foam Rolling Improve Athletic Performance?

Does Foam Rolling Improve Athletic Performance?

Title: The Effects of Myofascial Release With Foam Rolling on Performance

Author: Healey et al

Journal: Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

Objective: to determine whether the use of myofascial rollers before athletic tests can enhance performance

Background

Sports and physical exercise of any type result in repetitive microtrauma to muscle groups, leading to soreness, fatigue and potentially injury or dysfunction. For this reason, physical active individuals and those caring for them are frequently trying to identify ways to decrease or mitigate these symptoms to help improve recovery and performance.

One such modality has been massage therapy and more recently, foam rolling. The goal of these techniques is myofascial release, or relaxing the muscle and fascial tension. Foam rolling has become popular because it can be performed by the individual without assistance.

It is postulated that foam rolling may allow an athlete to increase their volume of training or decrease dysfunction, however there is limited data demonstrating the efficacy of this claim. Despite this, athletes, active individuals, trainers and coaches often employee foam rolling as part of their warm up and/or cool down.

The authors of this study wanted “to determine whether self myofascial release using foam rollers enhances acute athletic performance when compared with planking, a similar isometric exercise.”

Methods

  • They took 26 college age males, average BMI 24

  • Study design was randomized, cross-over

  • Each individual  performed a series of planking exercises or foam rolling exercises and then performed a series of athletic performance tests (vertical jump height and power, isometric force, and agility).

  • Fatigue, soreness, and exertion were also measured

Results

There were no significant differences between foam rolling and planking for all 4 of the athletic tests {vertical jump height and power, isometric force, and agility)

There were significant increases from pre to post exercise during both planking and foam rolling for fatigue, soreness, and exertion (p ≤ 0.01)

Postexercise fatigue after foam rolling was significantly less than after the subjects performed planking (p ≤ 0.05)

Conclusions

Foam rolling had no effect on performance on 4 athletic tests in this small study.

It did however improve sensation of fatigue compared to planking.

In a more chronic setting, where effects could be measured over weeks, months or even years, this may provide performance enhancements. We just don’t know yet.

Reference

Healey KC, Hatfield DL, Blanpied P, Dorfman LR, Riebe D. The effects of myofascial release with foam rolling on performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jan;28(1):61-8.

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