I firmly believe that the best friend of every athlete should be a foam roller. If you’re an athlete and don’t have one, you should read the rest of this blog and go buy one. If you already have one, you should still read this blog as I think it is important for athletes to understand why they do something. I’m coach high school track and field and I always tell my track and field athletes that I want them to know everything that I know to make them better athletes. I believe in the same thing as a doctor, I want my patients to know everything I know to make them better in health. That’s why today I’m stressing the importance of using the foam roller.
Foam rollers have really burst onto the scene the last few years. Needless to say, as a result of them being such a new item into the sports medicine scene, there’s not a lot of research on them. However, the research that has been done on them has been very promising! If I could pick one study to show how effective foam rollers can be for athletes, I would pick this one that showed that foam rolling decreased muscle soreness, improved vertical jump height, improved muscle activation and improved passive/dynamic ROM (http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Citation/2014/01000/Foam_Rolling_as_a_Recovery_Tool_after_an_Intense.19.aspx). I would say that as an athlete, decreasing muscle soreness (DOMS), improving your muscles ability to fire and improving passive and dynamic ROM can make a HUGE difference! Foam rollers do more than just increase your ROM or reduce muscle soreness though. In another interesting study, foam rolling reduced arterial stiffness and improved vascular endothelial function (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23575360). In simple terms, that study showed that foam rolling is good for your cardiovascular health. Now, there are many more studies than these two so if you desire more research, just hop on Google scholar.
Now what type of foam roller should you get? There are all sorts of foam rollers on the market today from ones with spikes that make it look like a dinosaur to just smooth ones. I’ve tried lots of different foam rollers but my personal favorite is the grid by Trigger Point therapy. They’re a little more expensive than a regular foam roller but it is money well spent in my opinion. Their foam rollers are very rigid and more aggressive than traditional rollers. They have almost fingerlike projections that allow you to really get in there on the soft tissue structures. And, they’re not paying me to say this by any means, in fact I don’t even get a discount on their foam rollers for selling them in my office, I do wish they would change that!
A foam roller could save you a trip from having to come see me and believe it or not, I don’t want you to have to come see me. Athletes always say they’ll do anything to get better but it is my experience as a coach that outside of practice, that is generally not the case. A foam roller presents you the opportunity to allow yourself to be better as an athlete, to train harder and recover faster, what more could you possibly ask for? If you’re not using one, start, it’ll be one of the best decisions you can make as an athlete!
-Dr. Brian Damhoff