PURPOSE: Regular exercise and performance can result in micro trauma, which is a small amount of damage to the muscle. For a number of centuries massage has been used to prevent these dysfunctions as well as enhance muscle relaxation, reduce muscle tension, soreness, and to improve athletic performances. In the last decade self myofascial release (SMR) has become an increasingly common modality to supplement traditional methods of treating the soft-tissue, so a masseuse is not necessary. Currently there is a growing market for the purchase of foam rollers as a SMR tool and they are common in commercial gyms and high school and collegiate strength and conditioning facilities. However there is limited clinical data demonstrating the efficacy or mechanism of this treatment on athletic performance. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the use of myofascial rollers before athletic tests can enhance performance. METHODS: Twenty-six (13 men and 13 women) healthy college aged individuals (21.56 ± 2.04 years, 23.97 ± 3.98 body mass index (BMI), 20.57 ± 12.21 percent body fat) were recruited. The study design was a randomized, crossover design that consisted of each subject completing one day of familiarization and two days of experimental testing. Anthropometric measurements of height, weight, BMI, and body composition (via bodpod) were obtained. Each testing day participants were randomized into planking or foam rolling and completed vertical jump power (force plate), vertical jump height (vertec), isometric force production (force plate), speed (47 yard sprint), and agility (pro-agility test) tests. Fatigue, soreness, and exertion were all measured via likert scales. All results are reported as mean ± SD. A 2 x 2 (Trial × Gender) ANOVA with repeated measures was used to analyze the data. In the case of a significant F score, a Post Hoc Bonferroni test was performed to determine where significant differences lay. Paired sample t-tests were used to determine significant differences between pre and post fatigue measures during each trial. RESULTS: There were no significant differences between foam rolling and planking for all five of the athletic tests. However, there was a significant difference between genders on all of the athletic tests (p ≤ 0.001). As expected there were significant increases from pre to post during both trials for fatigue, soreness, and exertion (p ≤ 0.01). Post fatigue after foam rolling was significantly less than after the subjects performed planking (p ≤ 0.05). Conclusion: The results show that 30 seconds of foam rolling on each of the lower-limbs and back had no effect on performance. Post-foam rolling fatigue measures were significantly less than past-planking fatigue measures. Practical Applications: The reduced feeling of fatigue may allow participants to extend acute workout time and volume, which can lead to chronic performance enhancements. Future studies should to be done to examine the effects of chronic foam rolling on performance.
1Human Performance Laboratory, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI; and 2Physical Therapy Department, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI