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Refresher on Foam Rolling

By Julie Nickoley, Head Athletic Trainer, Colorado Storm - September 1, 2017

Are your legs feeling tight, heavy, or weak? With the season just beginning and practice and game load increasing rapidly, you need to remember to take care of your muscles off the field. Rejuvenation for your body outside of team time is crucial for peak performance. Foam rolling is a simple, affordable, and extremely beneficial way to keep your muscles in tip top shape as the season progresses.


Foam Rolling
Why should you foam roll?
The purpose of foam rolling is to create flexibility in the muscle and mobility between the skin and the muscle. Between skin and muscle there is a layer of fibrous connective tissue called fascia. This connective tissue helps stabilize and anchor muscles, as well as other internal structures. Fascia is also between muscle layers and almost every organ in the body. When a muscle or surrounding soft tissue becomes irritated due to surgery, overuse, or injury the fascia becomes irregular and fascial adhesions may form between the skin and muscle or between muscle layers. These adhesions can modify mobility, range of motion and can ultimately cause injury. Foam rolling can help decrease these adhesions while increasing mobility and range of motion in the muscle that is being rolled out. There are also trigger points or “knots” that form in muscle due to a lack of blood flow to that area because of tightness. Foam Rolling will help release these trigger points to get the muscle working at its full capacity.
Low Density or High Density? Long or short?
Foam rollers come in all shapes and sizes. The size only matters based on personal preference and travel convenience. There are also high density and low density foam rollers. For beginners, start with the low density foam roller so you can begin to mobilize the fascia/muscles being worked on without causing too much pain. Eventually you will need to build up to the high density foam roller so that the tissue is getting the most amount of pressure to release those adhesions/trigger points. Beware, foam rolling is not a comfortable thing to do and will be a little painful! That is normal. Ease into it by starting with a low density foam roller and working your way up.
Directions on how to properly foam roll:
You will use your body and gravity to properly foam roll the tissue/muscle being worked on. For soccer players, all the lower leg muscles should be rolled out. That includes: the Quadriceps (front thigh muscles), IT Band (side thigh muscle/band running from your hip to your knee), Gluteus Maximus (that big muscle you sit on!), Hamstrings (back of the thigh muscles), Adductors (inner thigh muscles), Calves (back of lower leg muscles), and Peroneals (side of lower leg muscles). When rolling out and you hit a trigger point or “knot” (you will know because it will be a sharp pain), stay on that point for at least 30 seconds or until you can feel it release and then continue rolling out slowly and controlled each muscle for 1-2 minutes per muscle group.
Foam rolling can be done before and/or after practice as many times during the day as you have time for. If you are playing a sport, you have tight muscles! So, the earlier you start foam rolling the better! Athletic performance will go up and the risk of injury will go down.
If you have any questions or would like to set up and appointment to learn more on how to properly foam roll, please contact:
Julie Nickoley
Head Athletic Trainer | Colorado Storm
University of Colorado | Sports Medicine
Work: 303-828-7162
Dr. Brant Stock. (2016). Instrument-Assisted Fascial Mobilization for Mobility and Injury Prevention [Brochure]. Pg. 2-3
Gaiamâ Restore Deep Tissue Roller in Orange [Photograph]. (2016, November 28).
ProForm 24-Inch Foam Roller [Photograph]. (2016, November 28).
PRO-TEC FOAM ROLLER 6”X18” [Photograph]. (2016, November 28).