The impact of foam rolling on explosive strength and excitability of the motor neuron pool
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To assess acute performance-related effects of foam rolling, this study investigated the immediate effects of a standard foam rolling protocol on explosive strength of the plantarflexors and alpha motor neuron excitability in the soleus. Explosive strength was measured via vertical jump height (JUMP) and the Reactive Strength Index (RSI) obtained from a single leg drop jump. Alpha motor neuron excitability was measured by H reflex amplitude as H wave to M wave ratio (HM) obtained from the soleus muscle. JUMP and RSI measures were analyzed from nineteen subjects (12 male, 7 female) HM data were analyzed from 15 subjects (9 male, 6 female). Subjects attended one day of practice and instruction for the single leg drop jump and one day for data collection. One leg was randomly assigned to be the test leg (FL) and the other as the control (NL). The reported dominant leg and gender were also recorded for each subject. Subjects performed two single leg drop jumps per leg from a box height of 30 cm and then 10 soleus H reflexes were obtained. The intervention, which followed standard professional guidelines, consisted of 2.5 minutes of foam rolling for the FL and rest for the NL, followed by a 5 minute warm up on a cycle ergometer. The best jump and the average HM ratio were chosen for analysis. For each variable a post/pre ratio was calculated for statistical analysis. A 2x2x2 factor ANOVA with repeated measures on both factors was used for each variable. Analysis revealed no statistically significant differences for any of the variables, either as main effects or any of the interaction effects. Subjects trended towards a slightly larger post-intervention decrease in JUMP and RSI for the FL than the NL but this was not significant. It was concluded that a 2.5 minute intervention of foam rolling had no acute effect on explosive strength of the plantarflexors or alpha motor neuron excitability of the soleus.
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