Since 2013 there has been an enormous amount of research conducted on foam rolling. Some advocate it can correct muscular imbalances, improve neuromuscular efficiency, improve range of motion and improve markers of strength and power.
What we do know is that overstress, injury, imbalance or fatigue can stiffen fascia as a result of fascial crosslinks. Fascial stiffness has been suggested to negatively influence sporting performance. Myofascial release is a therapeutic intervention for releasing soft tissue from areas of abnormally tight fascia. Foam rolling (a tool for myofascial release) involves exerting compressive forces along targeted musculature, following the orientation of the specific muscle being mobilised.
Current evidence suggests that foam rolling offers a clear beneficial effect in improving range of motion, however the long-term effects is unknown. There appears to be no detrimental effect of foam rolling on athletic performance, and is seen as a useful tool in recovery from exercise induced muscle damage.
Skinner, B. et al. (2020). A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of foam rolling on range of motion, recovery and markers of athletic performance. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. 24(3): 105-122.