A Review by Alyssa Bialowas

There are many common therapeutic approaches to alleviating neuromuscular muscle fatigue following training. Such as, nutritional supplementation, wearing compression clothing, cryotherapy, cryocompression, stretching and low-intensity exercise following intense forms of exercise. Preventing muscular exhaustion is important for reducing risk of injury, restoring strength, repairing muscle fibers, preventing further fatigue.

Foam rolling is characterized as a tissue-assisted self-treatment (self-myofascial release) and is considered a promising therapeutic technique that has gained in popularity over the last few years. Current literature that evaluates the effects of foam rolling provides evidence that it reduces intense muscle soreness and relieves pressure pain in the affected muscles. As foam rolling is a relatively new therapeutic technique, researchers from this study set out to compare the effects of single bout preventative foam rolling versus regenerative foam rolling on neuromuscular exhaustion.

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The Study

A randomized control study was designed to compare three groups undergoing a fatigue protocol. Forty-five healthy adults volunteered to participate in the study who engaged in regular physical activity.

The first group was the prevention group, they performed foam rolling immediately prior to the fatigue protocol. The second group was the regenerative foam rolling group, and foam rolled immediately after the fatigue protocol. Both the foam roller groups were instructed to use the foam roller for five minutes, targeting the knee extensors, hamstrings, adductors, calf muscles and the iliotibial tract, for 30 seconds each. The last group was the control group who did not receive treatment.

Self-perceived muscular exhaustion of the lower limb was assessed, as well as reactive strength, and maximum isometric force of the knee extensors.

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The Results

There were differences found in perceived muscle pain and reactive strength between both intervention groups compared to the control group, although the results were not statistically significant. There were moderate to large magnitude decreases in muscular force that were observed in the regenerative foam rolling group, and a trend towards less perceived muscular exhaustion in both intervention groups.

The results from this study indicate that there are benefits of foam rolling as a preventive and regenerative therapeutic approach to aiding neuromuscular exhaustion. Their data may implicate a trend towards regenerative foam rolling, albeit only slightly. Future research may consider the effects of combined preventative and regenerative foam rolling.

Takeaway

Evidence supports the fact that foam rolling is associated with an increase in arterial blood flow from tissue perfusion, reduces arterial stiffness, reduces muscle soreness, and may even lead to increases in jump height, muscle activation and range of motion. As a therapeutic approach to alleviating neuromuscular fatigue, foam rolling is an intervention that leads to increased neuromuscular efficiency. Although the practice of foam rolling as a therapeutic approach is relatively new, evidence indicates that pre and post foam rolling is beneficial in reducing fatigue-related impairments of muscle function after exercise.

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References

Banzer, W., Fleckenstein, J., Vogt, L., & Wilke, J. (2017). “ Preventive and Regenerative

Foam Rolling are Equally Effective in Reducing Fatigue-Related Impairments of

Muscle Function following Exercise.” Journal of Sports Science and Medicine,

16, 474-479.