The Acute Effects of Foam Rolling and Dynamic Stretching on Athletic Performance: A Critically Appraised Topic

in Journal of Sport Rehabilitation
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Clinical Scenario: Dynamic stretching and foam rolling are commonly used by athletes to reduce injury and enhance recovery, thereby improving athletic performance. In contrast to dynamic stretching, little research has been conducted on the acute effects of foam rolling as part of the preexercise warm-up routine. Previously, when researchers implemented foam rolling with static stretching as a warm-up, some found that foam rolling slightly improved flexibility and performance outcomes. More recent research has shown that dynamic stretching is favorable to static stretching when used as a warm-up strategy. Therefore, adding foam rolling to dynamic stretching is hypothesized to create more significant improvements in flexibility and performance compared with adding foam rolling to static stretching. Focused Clinical Question: In active individuals, does foam rolling in addition to dynamic stretching lead to enhanced performance compared with dynamic stretching alone? Summary of Key Findings: Four randomized controlled trials were included. Two studies concluded that the addition of foam rolling to dynamic stretching increased vertical jump height more than dynamic stretching alone, while 2 studies found no difference between these treatment groups. Two studies concluded that the addition of foam rolling increased agility performance compared with dynamic stretching alone, while one study found no difference between treatment groups and one study did not measure agility. All 4 studies reviewed concluded that foam rolling did not improve flexibility more than dynamic stretching alone. Clinical Bottom Line: Foam rolling in conjunction with dynamic stretching may further improve an athlete’s agility and power output; however, little improvement has been observed with foam rolling in regard to athlete flexibility when compared with completing dynamic stretching programs alone. Strength of Recommendation: Inconsistent findings from 4 randomized controlled trials suggest there is Grade C evidence to support the inclusion of foam rolling in a dynamic warm-up.

The authors are with the Department of Health and Human Performance, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX, USA.

Farnsworth (farnsworth@txstate.edu) is corresponding author.
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