Mario Gencarelli '17 - Athletic training

An athletic training alumni creats a foam roller to revolutionize the market.

Roll On

Students add tunes to a rehab device

The foam roller, a simple athletic rehabilitation device, is only effective if it’s used properly. The enhanced roller developed by a team of Cal U students may help athletes get the most out of their rehab or exercise session – and enjoy a little music along the way.

Mario Gencarelli ’17, who earned his Cal U master’s degree in athletic training, know that athletes frequently use foam rollers to massage and strengthen their muscles.

In addition to this “self myofascial release,” the device often is used in rehabilitation.

“Any setting where there are athletes, there’s some form rolling being done,” he explains. “But often athletes do not use the rollers on each muscle for the recommended time.”

Gencarelli’s capstone research project showed that incorporating music therapy into the rehab protocol makes it more likely that athletes will use the roller properly, increasing the treatment’s efficacy.

So he collaborated with undergraduates from the department of Applied Engineering and Technology to add audio speakers and wireless Bluetooth connection to the foam-covered cylinder.

The enhanced foam roller connects to a smartphone or mp3 device for a specific period of time. The music serves as a cue, letting athletes know how long to keep rolling.

Dr. Shelly DiCesaro, director of Cal U’s graduate athletic training program, and Dr. Joe Schickel, chair of the applied engineering department, introduced the collaborators.

“I thought it would be a good opportunity to connect some of our innovative students with a real-world projects,” Schnickel says.

With guidance from faculty member Dr. Brenton Wilburn, Gencarelli began meeting with applied engineering students Koty Davis, Zachary Knight, Jeff Sokira  and KiKi Yawsarpong.

After extensive research, measuring, mechanical drawing and coding, the undergrads used a 3D printer to create a model. Then they designed circuits, mounted electronics and speakers inside the roller, activated the prototype’s Bluetooth connection. 

“I found it very rewarding, especially when you’re up until three in the morning but you finally have a working product,” Sokira says.

“All I had was the idea, the goal and the reason why I was researching this," Gencarelli adds. “These guys all have workloads of their own, but they put in endless hours to build something that’s the first of its kind. They’re really sharp.”

The athletic training graduate sees a future for the invention. He has secured a one-year provisional patent license and is designed a marketing strategy.

He plans to introduce the innovative foam roller to audiences on YouTube and KickStarter, as well as hospitals, fitness centers and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s annual symposium.

The undergraduates who brought the invention to life “will always be a part of my team,” he says.

“I’d like to create our own brand and be on (television’s) Shark Tank. This is a good innovation for any therapeutic setting.”