A couple of years back I was playing soccer and tore a calf muscle (gastrocnemius). I have played soccer for more years then you can imagine and it was the first muscle injury I had experienced. It was the first time I had ever been on crutches. I was talking to a friend about my injury and he referred me to a physical therapist who specializes in calf injuries. That was the beginning of my rehabilitation journey in addition to an invaluable education on how to take care of my muscles to prevent further injury. My physical therapist Scott Hadley of the Hadley Clinic in Grand Rapids has been such a valuable person in my rehab and in my education. Scott has designed a rolling device called the MyoReflex Roller that has changed how I roll my muscles as well as it has had a positive impact on my rehabilitation.
I have written an article on the importance of foam rolling in the past. It is important to loosen the fascia around our muscles. Foam rolling is a useful tool in both rehabilitation and injury prevention. I recently went to a functional training seminar in Chicago for continuing education for my Sports Conditioning Certification. A speed and agility specialist named Lee Taft was a speaker at the seminar. He uses the foam roller as a tool for warming up his athletes. Before they begin any running activity they foam roll. He says in his book that “the purpose of rolling is to help prepare the superficial layers of the soft tissue (fascia) and to reduce the tension in the musculo-tendinous unit”. He also says that “trigger points or knots develop deep in the myofascia. These areas of local spasm disrupt normal movement of muscles and joints. In addition, delay in muscle activation diminish local blood flow and lead to increased risk of injury.” There must be good in using rollers as a warm up device because when I went to a soccer clinic at Notre Dame each player had his own foam roller to use in their warm up.
My physical therapist Scott Hadley gives his top 4 reasons to roll.
4 Reasons to Roll Your Muscles
Scott Hadley PhD, DP
“I am frequently asked the question, “Why roll my muscles?” There are several good reasons, but here are my top four:
1. A stiff muscle is a painful muscle. The pain may be in the stiff muscle, referred to a near-by joint, in the muscle’s tendon, or just a general sense of discomfort. Rolling the muscle loosens the connective tissue, improves the blood flow, flushes out lactic acid, and releases the tension of the muscle. The result is less muscular pain. And since most pain is muscular, this is a good thing!
2. A stiff muscle is a weak muscle. Rolling properly restores muscle strength. How? One way the nervous system controls muscle contraction is through stretch reflexes. Stretch reflexes control up to 60% of a muscle’s recruitment. When the muscle becomes stiff, the stretch reflexes become inhibited, and the muscle loses much of its ability to contract. This can lead to a loss of proper joint control, poor athletic performance, and injury.
3. A stiff muscle causes other muscles to become weak. Stretch reflexes coming from one muscle are used to activate other muscles at different joints. When a muscle stiffens, the other muscles controlled by that muscle become neurologically inhibited resulting in weakness. For example, a stiff soleus in the calf can cause the hip extensors to lose up to 75% of their strength.
4. Learning to roll muscles properly and with the right tools empowers you, giving you control of your pain and discomfort. The knowledge of proper rolling technique creates a sense of good mental health and well-being. You don’t need to feel dependent on your Physical Therapist, your Massage Therapist, or your Chiropractor if you know how to take care of your own body.”
I began to question this rolling thing because if these professionals are rolling as a warm up, if they believe so strongly in the benefits, and I personally have had great results should this be something we should be doing to help prevent injury? What can we do to help our athletes be more prepared to compete at the highest level possible? My U16 boys’ team has all purchased on of the MyoReflex Rollers and we use them as part of our warm up. Each of my kids has a MyoReflex Roller of their own that they keep in their soccer bags. These particular rollers are super because; 1. they fit right in their bags 2. they penetrate much deeper into the muscle then the foam rollers. For muscles that are denser, and for tightness that is deep in the muscle these rollers are amazing.
If you have any questions about the MyoReflex Roller you can visit www.myoreflexroller.com. If you would like to try one, if you see me on the field somewhere, just ask as I usually have one in my car. If you would like to purchase one, I may have one in my car for purchase or I can get you one. Or you can buy them online on the website mentioned. The purchase price is $45 and let me tell you well worth the money. Also on the website is an ebook that demonstrates how to use them.
Mary Free Bed YMCA, Personal trainer
PASS FC, Soccer Coach, USSF C license