Context: Many athletes report that foam rollers help release tension in their muscles, thus resulting in greater range of motion (ROM) when used before stretching. To date, no investigators have examined foam rollers and static stretching.
Objective: To determine if foam rolling before static stretching produces a significant change in passive hip-flexion ROM.
Design: Controlled laboratory study.
Setting: Research laboratory.
Participants: 40 subjects with less than 90° of passive hip-flexion ROM and no lower-extremity injury in the 6 mo before data collection.
Interventions: During each of 6 sessions, subjects' passive hip-flexion ROM was measured before and immediately after static stretching, foam rolling and static stretching, foam rolling, or nothing (control). To minimize accessory movement of the hip and contralateral leg, subjects lay supine with a strap placed across their hip and another strap located over the uninvolved leg just superior to the patella. A bubble inclinometer was then aligned on the thigh of the involved leg, with which subjects then performed hip flexion.
Main outcome measure: Change in passive hip-flexion ROM from the preintervention measure on day 1 to the postintervention measure on day 6.
Results: There was a significant change in passive hip-flexion ROM regardless of treatment (F3,17 = 8.06, P = .001). Subjects receiving foam roll and static stretch had a greater change in passive hip-flexion ROM compared with the static-stretch (P = .04), foam-rolling (P = .006), and control (P = .001) groups.
Conclusions: Our results support the use of a foam roller in combination with a static-stretching protocol. If time allows and maximal gains in hip-flexion ROM are desired, foam rolling the hamstrings muscle group before static stretching would be appropriate in noninjured subjects who have less than 90° of hamstring ROM.