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The psychosocial and not just the physical ramifications of a sport-related concussion need to be considered as athletes return to play. Researchers have identified 6 psychosocial factors involved in return to sport: fear of re-injury, status of confidence, impact on identity, sense of support, sense of pressure and one’s experience of concussion.

While physical rest is typically recommended in the first 24 to 48 hours following a concussion, rest beyond that period may negatively impact an athlete’s recovery. A Canadian study found that athletes who took more than 3 days to return to physical activity after a concussion took longer to fully return to sport than those who began gradually returning to exercise after just one day post-injury. Coaches, parents and medical practitioners should work together to help athletes safely return to activity after a concussion.

Research shows that proper nutrition habits can improve an athlete’s sleep. Getting a good night of sleep is critical, as it boosts immune function, improves recovery times, and promotes learning, all of which can increase athletic performance. Good nutrition habits, such as eating a balanced diet and avoiding large meals before bed, can lead to better sleep. Poor nutrition habits such as drinking caffeine and consuming alcohol can negatively impact sleep.

In soccer, women have twice the risk of sustaining ACL knee injuries compared to men. Research shows that injury prevention programs such as FIFA 11+ can reduce ACL injury rates by up to 45% in women. Effective injury programs include multiple exercises focused on strength, agility, balance and mobility. To protect athletes from injury, teams should implement and sustain these programs over time.

Overuse injuries develop from repetitive stress and are common in sports such as running and tennis. Unlike traumatic injuries (for example, a sprained ankle), overuse injuries cannot often be pinpointed to a single event. Research shows that psychosocial factors play a role in the development of overuse injuries. Individual factors such as competitive drive, perfectionism, and dependence on one’s athletic identity influence risk for overuse injury, as do interpersonal factors, such as coach-athlete relationship.

Research from the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation at Memorial University has shown that foam rolling can increase range of motion, as well as reduce pain and the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness, without having any adverse effects on performance. Foam rolling is a useful tool for athletes during warm up or recovery.

Sleep hygiene is an important aspect of recovery and includes behaviours that promote improved quantity and quality of sleep. Sleep is especially important for athletic performance and inadequate sleep can hinder an athlete’s ability to recover from training or injuries. Some sleep strategies that can be used to help improve sleep hygiene include maintaining a regular sleep schedule and avoiding caffeine, alcohol and nicotine before bed.

Foam rolling has become very popular over the last decade. It is believed to increase flexibility and range of motion, improve athletic performance and reduce pain and muscle soreness.  

Our laboratory within the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation at Memorial University of Newfoundland has been working to verify these claims and determine whether these assumptions about foam rolling are correct.  

This blog will summarize current research regarding the effectiveness of foam rolling on flexibility, performance, and soreness.

How rolling works 

Athlete rolling out their hamstringsIt is quite common to see foam rollers referred to as “self-myofascial release devices” in the scientific literature. It was believed that foam rollers release myofascial constrictions that occur due to inactivity, overload, injury, inflammation and disease. These constrictions can lead to pain and restrict motion.  

However, based on the evidence from research directly testing myofascial trigger points, the forces needed to break up or remove myofascial adhesions would exceed the strength of most people (Behm & Wilke, 2019). The foam roller’s broad surface would not be able to apply sufficient pressure to break up myofascial adhesions.  

There is, however, evidence showing reduction in muscle stiffness through foam rolling. Rolling the skin, muscles, and myofascia can increase blood flow and decrease the viscosity of the tissues. The muscle tone can be relaxed by stimulating proprioceptors, which may increase parasympathetic nervous system stimulation (Behm & Wilke, 2019) and there is also evidence for reduced reflex activity (Young, Spence, & Behm, 2018). Pain reduction with rolling allows a greater stretch tolerance and thus the person can achieve a greater range of motion by pushing themselves farther (Behm, 2018). 

Impact on flexibility 

In research, it is almost always impossible to reach unanimous agreement. A practice called meta-analysis is often used in this case to compare and summarize the findings.  

Two meta-analyses that we have been involved with have reported that foam rolling does acutely increase range of motion, with similar increases as stretching (Konrad et al., 2022; Wilke et al., 2020). These positive effects can last for at least 20 minutes after rolling.  

Similarly, when you train with foam rollers for 4 weeks or more, our meta-analyses demonstrated that you also see a moderate magnitude increase in range of motion (Konrad et al., 2022).  

However, we found that rolling was muscle specific and not all muscles experience the same flexibility gains. For example, rolling the calf muscles did not increase ankle joint range of motion.  

Woman stretching on a soccer fieldTo achieve the greatest range of motion, rolling prescriptions should involve 1–3 sets of 2–4-second repetition duration (time for a single roll in one direction over the length of a body part) with a total rolling duration of 30–120-second per set (Behm et al., 2020). Rolling does not need to be painful to be effective (Grabow et al., 2018). 

Impact on performance 

Most studies examining acute effects do not show improvements in athletic performance measures such as strength, jump height, or sprint speed. One of our reviews (Behm et al., 2020) and a recently submitted meta-analysis (Konrad, Nakamura, & Behm, 2022) showed no significant changes in performance when foam rolling training is applied either in a single session or for several weeks. Although at first glance, this may seem like a negative outcome, prolonged static stretching (>60 seconds per muscle group) tends to decrease performance (Behm, 2018; Behm, et al., 2016; Behm & Chaouachi, 2011; Behm et al., 2021). Thus, if foam rolling can increase range of motion without negatively affecting performance, then this is actually a positive outcome.  

Another benefit is that while working on your flexibility with foam rolling you also are activating and working your core (back and abdominals) muscles since the rolling position often closely resembles the action of planking (Zahiri et al., 2022). 

Impact on pain and muscle soreness 

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) from unaccustomed or excessive exercise can cause reduced strength and flexibility for days. Research shows that foam rolling after exercise can reduce DOMS and minimize performance deficits such as range of motion, maximum isometric strength, sprint speed, long jump distance, agility (Macdonald et al., 2014; Pearcey et al., 2015). 

Athlete foam rolling their calf muscleThe likely reason for these effects is that foam rolling can decrease pain and may also decrease DOMS-induced inflammation. In fact, rolling has global effects on the body. Rolling the calf muscles only on one side of the body (unilateral) has been shown to decrease the pain pressure threshold on the opposite calf (Aboodarda, Spence, & Button, 2015; Cavanaugh et al., 2017). Thus, rolling can reduce pain not only on the rolled muscle but other muscles that were not rolled. 


In summary, the research from our lab and collaborations shows that foam rolling can increase range of motion similarly to static stretching, as well as reduce pain and the effects of DOMS, while showing no significant adverse effects on performance. Foam rolling is advocated as another tool in the training kit to be used during warm-ups or to help recover from exercise. 

For decades, rest has been prescribed for sport-related concussion symptoms. But new evidence suggests that mild to moderate aerobic exercise can be a safe and effective concussion treatment. In fact, exercise can help speed up recovery and help athletes who experience symptoms beyond the expected recovery period.

Wanting to exercise at night but worried that it will disrupt your sleep? Performing high-intensity exercise like running or cycling in the evening may benefit your nighttime sleep. The key is making sure that you finish your workout at least 2 hours before you plan to go to bed.