A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of foam rolling on range of motion, recovery and markers of athletic performance

J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2020 Jul;24(3):105-122. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2020.01.007. Epub 2020 Feb 7.


Objective: To conduct a systematic review with meta-analysis assessing the effects of foam rolling on range of motion, laboratory- and field-based athletic measures, and on recovery.

Data sources: MEDLINE, PubMed, EMBASE, SPORTDiscus and Science Direct were searched (2005-June 2018).

Study selection: Experimental and observational studies were included if they examined the effects of foam rolling on measures of athletic performance in field or laboratory settings.

Data extraction: Two investigators independently assessed methodologic quality using the Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) Scale. Study characteristics including participant age, sex and physical activity status, foam rolling protocol and pre- and post-intervention mean outcome measures were extracted.

Data synthesis: A total of 32 studies (mean PEDro = 5.56) were included in the qualitative analysis, which was themed by range of motion, laboratory-based measures, field-based measures and recovery. Thirteen range of motion studies providing 18 datasets were included in the meta-analysis. A large effect (d = 0.76, 95% CI 0.55-0.98) was observed, with foam rolling increasing range of motion in all studies in the analysis.

Conclusions: Foam rolling increases range of motion, appears to be useful for recovery from exercise induced muscle damage, and there appear to be no detrimental effect of foam rolling on other athletic performance measures. However, except range of motion, it cannot be concluded that foam rolling is directly beneficial to athletic performance. Foam rolling does not appear to cause harm and seems to elicit equivalent effects in males and females.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Performance*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Range of Motion, Articular