Comparing the effects of self-myofascial release with static stretching on ankle range-of-motion in adolescent athletes

Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2015 Apr;10(2):203-12.


Background: Increased flexibility is often desirable immediately prior to sports performance. Static stretching (SS) has historically been the main method for increasing joint range-of-motion (ROM) acutely. However, SS is associated with acute reductions in performance. Foam rolling (FR) is a form of self-myofascial release (SMR) that also increases joint ROM acutely but does not seem to reduce force production. However, FR has never previously been studied in resistance-trained athletes, in adolescents, or in individuals accustomed to SMR.

Objective: To compare the effects of SS and FR and a combination of both (FR+SS) of the plantarflexors on passive ankle dorsiflexion ROM in resistance-trained, adolescent athletes with at least six months of FR experience.

Methods: Eleven resistance-trained, adolescent athletes with at least six months of both resistance-training and FR experience were tested on three separate occasions in a randomized cross-over design. The subjects were assessed for passive ankle dorsiflexion ROM after a period of passive rest pre-intervention, immediately post-intervention and after 10, 15, and 20 minutes of passive rest. Following the pre-intervention test, the subjects randomly performed either SS, FR or FR+SS. SS and FR each comprised 3 sets of 30 seconds of the intervention with 10 seconds of inter-set rest. FR+SS comprised the protocol from the FR condition followed by the protocol from the SS condition in sequence.

Results: A significant effect of time was found for SS, FR and FR+SS. Post hoc testing revealed increases in ROM between baseline and post-intervention by 6.2% for SS (p < 0.05) and 9.1% for FR+SS (p < 0.05) but not for FR alone. Post hoc testing did not reveal any other significant differences between baseline and any other time point for any condition. A significant effect of condition was observed immediately post-intervention. Post hoc testing revealed that FR+SS was superior to FR (p < 0.05) for increasing ROM.

Conclusions: FR, SS and FR+SS all lead to acute increases in flexibility and FR+SS appears to have an additive effect in comparison with FR alone. All three interventions (FR, SS and FR+SS) have time courses that lasted less than 10 minutes.

Level of evidence: 2c.

Keywords: Ankle; dorsiflexion; flexibility; self‐massage; stretching.