The Effect of Roller Stick Myofascial Release on Lower Extremity Range of Motion and Functional Performance

SHC MedalThe completed thesis was submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a baccalaureate degree in Athletic Training with honors in Kinesiology from The Pennsylvania State University, Schreyer Honors College, Spring 2014

Honors student: Allison L. Montgomery

Thesis Supervisor: Sayers John Miller, III, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology

Thesis Reader: Giampietro “John” Vairo, Instructor of Kinesiology

Honors Advisor: Jinger S Gottschall, Associate Professor of Kinesiology


You may have seen athletes or other physically active individuals use a foam roller or roller stick as a form of massage for sore muscles. Commonly, these types of rollers are believed to improve flexibility as well as recover from activity (possibly through improved circulation of Roller Stick   lymphatic fluid).

While the foam roller and roller stick are becoming increasing popular across a variety of athletic settings, little is understood about the direct physiological effects of these rollers. Specifically, one type of roller stick (manufactured by The Stick, The Stick/RPI of Atlanta, Atlanta, GA, USA) was examined in the study I did for my undergraduate thesis (pictured left).

This study examined the effect of the roller stick on lower extremity range of motion and functional performance. It was hypothesized that the roller stick myofascial release technique would increase range of motion without impairing functional performance.


Hip and knee flexion range of motion was used to assess flexibility. The functional performance element included a single-legged vertical jump and a single-legged horizontal hop (both for maximum distance). Individuals were assigned to the control group (60 seconds of static stretching of the hamstrings and quadriceps) or the experimental group (had their hamstrings and quadriceps rolled for 60 seconds).

Pretest (no static stretching or rolling) and posttest (after static stretching and rolling) measures were obtained. This allowed me to compare how an individual performed before and after a bout of rolling.

Pictured left is an example of the roller stick being used on the hamstrings; right is an example of the roller stick being used on the quadriceps.

Roller Stick (Hamstrings)Roller Stick (Quadriceps)






No statistically significant differences existed at baseline between groups; meaning, the control and experimental groups were found to be similar, which made comparison of the results more applicable.

It was found that after a 60 second bout of rolling, range of motion improved for both the hamstrings and quadriceps. There were no significant decreases in functional performance following the use of the roller stick. Inconsistent with previous research regarding static stretching (which has been shown to decrease functional performance), the present study found that the static stretching group demonstrated statistically significant greater horizontal hop distances. No changes in range of motion or the vertical jump task within the static stretching group were found.


The roller stick was found to significantly increase hamstring and quadriceps flexibility with no associated reduction in functional performance, contrary to what has been previously shown for static stretching. This finding is supported by other recent research studies examining foam rollers and similar roller sticks.

The roller stick may also break up fascial adhesions, which may lead to improved muscle length and soft-tissue extensibility. On the other hand, the roller stick did not show a significant improvement in either functional performance measures. Therefore, it may be advised that the roller stick should not be used immediately prior to functional activities.

Since the number of participants in this study was low, further research involving a greater number of participants may produce more conclusive results.

Anecdotal Advice & Acknowledgements

Time management is critical! It is important to get organized and stay organized because senior year gets busy and goes by faster than you’d probably like it to. If you’re thinking about using human participants, start on your IRB before you get back in the fall; that way, you can hit the ground running and get your data collection started. Reach out to participants and any extra help you may need in the lab early because they, too, have busy schedules and unforeseen changes do happen.

Be patient but stay committed, your process may involve trial and error but that’s all part of the learning curve (and also why it’s a good idea to start early). It’s rare to get things exactly right the first time and you’ll value the experiences you get from going through this project as an undergraduate. For me, a majority of completing my honors thesis was about learning how to do research and understanding what goes into designing a research project (collaboration, literature review, methodology, etc…). The results from my project were an added bonus and it was enjoyable to talk about why I thought the data presented the way it did.

Furthermore, develop a strong working relationship with your thesis advisor; ultimately, he or she wants you to succeed, but you get out of it what you put in. I was very blessed to have supportive mentors, Dr. Miller and Dr. Vairo, who have shared so much advice and knowledge during my time in the athletic training program. I will always be thankful of the time they devote to providing their students with a quality education. To Dr. Gottschall, your enthusiasm and encouragement helped me see this project through. Thank you all!!

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