Context: Several studies have reported that self-massage using a foam roller (FR) increased joint range of motion (ROM) immediately. However, the mechanism of increasing ROM by the FR intervention has not been elucidated. Objective: To clarify the mechanism by investigating properties and morphological changes of muscles targeted by the FR intervention. Design: An interventional study. Setting: An athletic training laboratory. Participants: Ten male college volunteers with no injuries in their lower limbs (mean [SD]: age 23.8 [3.2] y, height 173.2 [4.9] cm, weight 69.5 [8.6] kg). Intervention: The FR intervention on the right plantar flexors for 3 minutes. Main Outcome Measures: Maximum ankle ROM, muscle hardness, and fascicle length of the gastrocnemius muscle at the neutral (0°), maximum dorsiflexion, and maximum plantar flexion positions. All measurements were conducted before (PRE) and after (POST) the FR intervention. Results: Dorsiflexion ROM increased significantly at POST (PRE: 13.6° [8.0°], POST: 16.6° [8.4°]; P <.001), although plantar flexion ROM did not change significantly between PRE and POST (PRE: 40.0° [6.1°], POST: 41.1° [4.9°]). There was no significant difference in muscle hardness and fascicle length between PRE and POST in any of the angles. Conclusions: Dorsiflexion ROM increased significantly by the FR intervention in the present study; however, muscle hardness and fascicle length did not change. FR may affect not only the muscle but also the fascia, tendon, and muscle-tendon unit. The FR protocol of the present study can be applied in clinical situations, because it was found to be effective to increase ROM.
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