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Latest Clinical Research Published by ACSM

Jaworski, Carrie A. MD, FACSM, FAAFP

doi: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000030
Scanning Sports Medicine

Division of Sports Medicine, Department of Family Medicine, University of Chicago/NorthShore University Health System, Glenview, IL

Address for correspondence: Carrie A. Jaworski, MD, FACSM, FAAFP, Division of Sports Medicine, Department of Family Medicine, University of Chicago/NorthShore University Health System, Glenview, IL 60026; E-mail:

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Foam Rolling as a Recovery Tool following an Intense Bout of Physical Activity

Despite foam rolling being a well-accepted modality that is used in exercise recovery, only three peer-reviewed research articles on the topic have been published to date. The purpose of this research article in the January 2014 edition of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise ® was to substantiate if foam rolling was an effective tool that could aid in the recovery from an intense bout of physical activity, which could cause delayed onset muscle soreness as well as to identify potential mechanisms (1). The study specifically looked at the effects of foam rolling on muscle soreness, voluntary and evoked contractile properties, vertical jump, and range of motion (ROM). The researchers also evaluated the general characteristics of foam rolling relating to force application and perceived pain during five different lower body foam rolling exercises.

The study consisted of 20 physically active male subjects who regularly partook in resistance training routines 3+ times per week prior to the start of the study. Subjects were randomly assigned to an experimental foam rolling (FR) or control (CON) group. All subjects participated in 5 testing sessions that included 1) orientation and 1 repetition maximum (1RM) back squat; 2) pretest measurements (PRE), 10 × 10 squat protocol, posttest 0 (POST 0); 3) posttest after 24 h (POST-24); 4) posttest after 48 h (POST-48); and 5) posttest after 72 h (POST-72). The FR group performed a 20-min foam rolling exercise protocol at the end of each session. This protocol consisted of five different foam rolling exercises that targeted the major muscle group of the anterior, lateral, posterior, and medial aspect of the thigh as well as with the gluteal muscles. The foam roller used was a custom-made foam roller that was made of high-density material to allow for greater pressure on the soft tissues.

The results of the study demonstrated that FR substantially reduced muscle soreness while substantially improving ROM at all time points. FR negatively affected evoked contractile properties with the exception of 1/2 relaxation time and electromechanical delay (EMD); FR substantially improved EMD. There was no substantial difference between groups for voluntary contractile properties besides voluntary muscle activation and vertical jump where FR was shown to have a substantial advantage at all time points for improving muscle activation and at POST-48 for vertical jump. In the FR group, muscle soreness peaked at POST-24 compared to POST-48 for the CON group based on the muscle soreness readings obtained. Based on these findings, the authors concluded that FR provided recovery benefits primarily through the treatment of connective tissues since connective tissue is the major site of exercise-induced muscle damage and pain.

Bottom Line: FR was demonstrated to be beneficial in improving dynamic movement, percent muscle activation, and both passive and dynamic ROM in comparison to the CON group, while attenuating muscle soreness.

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Ovarian Suppression Impairs Sport Performance in Junior Elite Female Swimmers

It is well known that when competitive female athletes restrict energy intake (EI) and increase exercise energy expenditure ovarian suppression can result. The purpose of this study in the January 2014 edition of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise ® was to determine the impact of ovarian suppression and energy deficit on swimming performance (2). The study evaluated 10 junior elite female swimmers aged 15 to 17 years. The athletes were categorized as cyclic (CYC) or ovarian suppressed (OVS). They were evaluated every 2 wk for metabolic hormones, bioenergetic parameters, and sport performance over the 12-wk season. Bioenergetic status refers to variables that impact the energy environment such as resting energy expenditure, total triiodothyronine (TT3), insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and energy availability (EA). Dietary records also were kept and evaluated for 3 d during the first portion of each 2-wk measurement period. Total EI was determined for each time point as was the percentage of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

The results demonstrated that the OVS group had suppressed ovarian steroids, progesterone (P4), and estradiol (E2) across the season. Their metabolic hormones, total TT3 and IGF-1, were lower than CYC levels at week 12. In addition, EI and EA were significantly lower in OVS athletes versus CYC athletes. The study demonstrated that the OVS group had a 9.8% decline in Δ400m-swim velocity compared to an 8.2% improvement in the CYC group at week 12.

Bottom Line: This study offers evidence to support the hypothesis that ovarian steroids, metabolic hormones, and energy status markers are all highly correlated with sport performance. Poor sport performance results when exercise training occurs in the presence of ovarian suppression with associated energy conservation evidenced by markers such as reduced TT3.

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1. Macdonald G, Button D, Drinkwater E, Behm DG. Foam rolling as a recovery tool following an intense bout of physical activity. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 2014; 46: 131–42.
2. VanHeest JL, Rodgers CD, Mahoney CE, De Souza MJ. Ovarian suppression impairs sport performance in junior elite female swimmers. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 2014; 46: 156–66.
Copyright © 2014 by the American College of Sports Medicine.