The use of foam rollers is very common among athletes preparing their bodies for the day. Players utilize foam rollers because they are relatively easy to use and can provide instant relief from tightness and sometimes even pain. It is imperative, however, that players and coaches understand how foam rolling can be beneficial at both the beginning and end of an athlete’s day. The objective of this article is to explain why the Philadelphia Phillies use foam rolling as a part of a tissue prep program and why it would be beneficial to add to an athlete’s post-workout and post-game recovery routines.
Previous articles on this site have provided excellent information on the benefits of foam rolling and how to use foam rollers as a part of an activation or preparatory program. While the benefits of using foam rolling, such as increased blood flow to areas of pain or discomfort, increased range of motion, and reduced muscle density are well known, there is additional information that needs to be discussed when it comes to foam rolling.
It is important to mention that when rolling before activity, players should focus on the areas surrounding muscle soreness for about 60 seconds. While it’s essential to spend time where we feel the restrictions, the surrounding areas should also be targeted as they may be the actual cause of the tightness or discomfort. The use of firmer foam rollers, such as trigger point rollers or even PVC pipe, will elicit a greater sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) response. These types of rollers can increase stress, frequency of breathing and heart rate, which may help prepare an athlete for activity. It is important to note that foam rolling is never meant to be a stand-alone prep option but should be one option in a series of modalities to optimize preparation for the day.
While foam rolling is commonly recognized as a pre-day activity it can also be used to provide potential post-training benefits. First, it helps reduces delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)1; and research has shown that reducing muscle soreness can have a positive effect on performance. Second, it stimulates lymphatic drainage by increasing tissue pressure which helps rid the body of excess fluid and waste products of cellular metabolism in the tissues2. Foam rolling has also been shown to enhance the circulatory system by helping clear waste via nutrient exchange. Third, using foam rolling techniques post-game or post-activity will engage the parasympathetic nervous system to help kick start recovery and enhance regeneration3. Because of the grueling schedule at both the Major and Minor League levels, each extra minute spent in recovery mode is crucial to athletes. Finally, when rolling for recovery, target entire muscle group such as the hamstring group and quad group instead of using the trigger point approach performed before activity.
- Pearcey, Gregory E. P., David J. Bradbury-Squires, Jon-Erik Kawamoto, Eric J. Drinkwater, David G. Behm, and Duane C. Button. “Foam Rolling for Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness and Recovery of Dynamic Performance Measures.” Journal of Athletic Training 50.1 (2015): 5-13. Web.
- Leduc, Albert, and Olivier Leduc. “12 Manual lymphatic drainage.” Lymphoedema (2000): 203.
- Kim, Kanghoon, et al. “Effect of self-myofascial release on reduction of physical stress: a pilot study.” Journal of physical therapy science 26.11 (2014): 1779-1781.
Furey Leva, RSCC is the Minor League Strength and Conditioning Coordinator for the Philadelphia Phillies.