Trainer Feature: Mark Kyger
Editors: Note: March was National Athletic Training Month, and to celebrate the occasion Timberwolves.com put together a collection of features showcasing the Wolves’ training staff at work. Part III focuses on Director of Athletic Therapy Mark Kyger, who is in his first season with the Wolves.
The Timberwolves lost 340 man games to injury in 2012-13, and heading into this season the organization was focused on limiting the amount of time players missed throughout the year.
In the offseason, they brought in Director of Athletic Therapy Mark Kyger to coordinate the therapies and daily treatments the players go through. He’s the one who goes through the players’ programs and helps with the evaluation of the athletes in order to get them prepared for games and practices.
As part of his role, he’s not only someone who looks ahead toward how to keep the players in the best shape possible, but he also is an extra set of hands in the training room that helps get the day-to-day treatments complete.
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“My emphasis is manual therapy and working on guys, and also evaluating and treating the various injuries that they come in and present during the course of the year—and hopefully develop some programs for them in the offseason to follow as well,” Kyger said. “We’re trying to utilize functional screenings, orthopedic assessment, to establish a baseline for these guys and to see where we can find different ways and avenues to improve their physical wellbeing and prevent injuries. And give them a good foundation to work in the weight room with Koichi [Sato], as well as perform better on the court.”
Kyger is in his first season with the Wolves after being in the Arizona State University training program since 2007. There, he was a rehabilitation coordinator that provided physical therapy and athletic training for athletes in the school’s 21 varsity sports.
Prior to that, he worked with the Physiotherapy Associates in Tempe, Ariz., from 2005-2007 where he specialized in sports therapy.
Kyger graduated from Mesa State College with an undergraduate degree in Human Performance and Wellness, and he received his Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Regis University Ruekert-Hartman School of Health Care Professions. He is a Certified Manual Therapist from the Ola Grimsby Institute and is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association, National Athletic Trainers’ Association, National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Corrective Exercise Specialist/Performance Enhancement Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
As part of his first year with the team, Kyger’s been part of an effort to try and screen players to accrue data in order to build a specific program for each player. Not all players need the same programs, he said, because if you think about it what’s best for Gorgui Dieng isn’t the same as what’s best for Nikola Pekovic.
His task is to develop those workouts accordingly.
Then, there’s the preventative rehabilitation. He said the most challenging aspect of the job is getting this accomplished during an 82-game season filled with travel, but the staff has been dedicated toward having more hands available for the workload on the road.
The players have bought into the strategy over time.
“You always have your players that eat this up and are good consumers in terms of looking out for themselves and their well-being,” Kyger said. “We still have to bring some guys along slowly and kind of encourage them to be persistent, but not overbearing with it. I think as they start to see results with other players, their ears perk up and they want to go through the same experiences.”
Kyger said President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders has helped set the tone for injury prevention in his first year with the Wolves in his new role, and he’s enjoyed this environment being receptive to enhancing resources and improving the opportunity for what the training staff wants to accomplish.
He said that will continue to grow as the Wolves move into the new Mayo Clinic Square across the street this fall.
“That will be a huge advantage for us,” Kyger said. “So we’re looking forward to that. Also, we feel we’re emerging in terms of being on pace in terms of what should be done assessing athletes and following up with athletes and again being proactive with their care. And giving them something to develop some ownership with to realize this is what I can do with my body to prolong my career and keep me out of the training room ultimately.”