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Foam Rollers in the Athletic Training Room

Foam rollers have received increasing attention as a viable performance enhancement tool for athletes and non-athletes alike. In the athletic training room at Wooster School foam rollers are used primarily to return muscles to their normal length-tension relationships. As a performance enhancement tool a foam roller can be used to help release muscle adhesions through deep tissue pressure. The deep tissue pressure works to activate the Golgi Tendon Organ (GTO) which senses tension and rate of tension change in muscle tissue. The activation of the GTO causes a reflexive relaxation of the muscle tissue under pressure. The muscle adhesions are bundles of muscle fibers which have been triggered through synergistic dominance to become overactive in posture and movement patterns. Synergistic dominance is the neuromuscular phenomenon that occurs when synergists take over function for a weak or inhibited prime mover. As a result of deep pressure using a foam roller these muscle adhesions can be resolved and normal muscle length-tension relationships can be realized.

When normal length-tension in a muscle exists between opposing muscles normal movement patterns and posture can be achieved. This will enhance sport performance as a result.

Try using a foam roller on your calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, adductors (inner thigh muscles), abductors (outer thigh muscles), and lattisimus dorsi. Place the selected muscle group over the roller and use your arms to lift your body off the ground and slowly “roll” your selected muscle group over the foam roller. You will know when you come upon a muscle adhesion if you hit a sensitive area. Don’t be shy, stay on this sensitive area for 20-30 seconds or until the discomfort reduces by 50-75%. The more often you foam roll, the fewer adhesions you will find over time. Once muscles regain their natural length-tension relationships normal function of the musculoskeletal system can be achieved and this will enhance performance as well as improve quality of life. In some cases foam rolling is not enough and corrective exercise training will be a necessary component of achieving optimum musculoskeletal function.

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