Does Foam Rolling have a Positive Effect on Performance and Recovery from Post Exercise Induced Muscle Damage: A Systematic Review of the Literature to Guide Practitioners on the use of Foam Rolling

Master Thesis


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Foam rolling is a form of myofascial release performed by the individual using their body weight, as opposed to the pressure being applied by the clinician. Foam rolling is currently used by athletes at all levels, from recreational to elite athletes. Foam rolling is used as a warm up to aid performance and/or recovery. This study aims to review the literature to determine if foam rolling enhances performance, positively affects recovery from exercise induced muscle damage, and whether there is a consensus on the protocol to achieve performance and recovery enhancement. Seven electronic databases, Google Scholar, Science Direct, Pubmed Central, Pubmed, ISI Web of Science, Medline and Scopus, were searched using terms related to foam rolling between January 2006 and April 2017. Published articles that included foam rolling as a recovery intervention and/or a performance enhancing tool were included in the study and assessed using the PEDro scale for methodological quality ratings. This dissertation will consolidate and add to the knowledge on the use of foam rolling. It will highlight when foam rolling should be used and recommend a specific protocol that should be used for performance and/or recovery purposes. This may address the confusion around when foam rolling should be used and show foam rolling to be effective as a recovery tool or for enhancing performance. This may help with better management of athletes by sports personnel, and in turn improve their performance and enhance their recovery. A total of 33 articles met the inclusion criterion and were systematically reviewed. There is evidence supporting the use of foam rolling in a warm-up consisting of dynamic stretching and an active warm-up to enhance performance; mainly through its effects on flexibility while maintaining muscle contractility. There is also evidence supporting the use of foam rolling to enhance recovery from exercise induced muscle damage and delayed onset of muscle soreness, with its main effects being the shortening of time to return to baseline performance, flexibility and pressure pain threshold. The mechanism by which foam rolling acts seems to be a neural response to pressure exerted. Sixty to ninety seconds of foam rolling may suffice to achieve the above desired effects. Further research is needed to determine the exact mechanisms of action of foam rolling, as well as the risks that may be associated with foam rolling.