It can take anywhere from 48 to 96 hours for full recovery to take place following a match. However, there are many instances in which athletes are not given adequate recovery time between competitions. Tournament-play and congested match fixtures often require athletes to compete on consecutive days, or sometimes twice in the same day. As such, coaches place a high premium on effective recovery modalities that can accelerate the restoration of performance in athletes. Foam rolling is a form of self massage that aims to reduce muscle “tightness” by stimulating the golgi tendon organ, thereby causing muscle to relax. Post-competition foam rolling has generated a lot of attention due to anecdotal reports of improving perceptual recovery markers. However, little research exists evaluating the effects of foam rolling on performance recovery in elite level athletes.
A new study published ahead of print in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared the effects of post-training foam rolling versus passive rest on next-day performance markers in a team of professional soccer players. Eight-teen soccer players provided ratings of soreness and recovery as well as performed baseline performance testing (counter-movement jump, t-test, 5 & 10 m sprint and sit and reach test) prior to an intense soccer training session. Following the training session, subjects were randomly allocated to a foam rolling group or a passive recovery group. The foam rolling group spent 20 minutes rolling out their quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals, adductors and gastrocs in a standardized manner using a dense roller. The passive rest group sat quietly for 20 minutes, serving as the control condition. Perceptual recovery markers and performance were re-evaluated ~24 hours later.
The results showed that of the performance metrics, no significant difference between groups was observed for counter-movement jump and sprint times. However, agility performance (t-test) demonstrated significantly better restoration to baseline in the foam rolling group compared with the passive rest group (ES = 1.06). Perceptual ratings of recovery and soreness levels were not substantially different between days for the foam rolling group whereas significant decrements were observed for these variables among the passive rest group. Collectively, these results indicate that foam rolling post-training can minimize subsequent-day perceived fatigue and muscle soreness while mitigating reductions in agility performance. Given that foam rolling is an easy to implement and inexpensive intervention, coaches should consider encouraging athletes to foam roll post-training when enhanced recovery is desired.
Ezequiel, R. et al. The Effects of Foam Rolling as a Recovery Tool in Professional Soccer Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. In press.