Seven Questions for Kyle Wilson, UNLV Athletic Trainer

The trainer on the value of stretching, the physicality of soccer (really!) and a Rebel coaches race for the ages

Kyle Wilson

Photo by Jon Estrada

What’s the true breakfast of champions?

Just the basics—cereal, fruit, pancakes, lots of carbohydrates. … We try to get our athletes just to eat breakfast. A lot of times they’re in the dorms or in apartments, so we’re just trying to get them up and get something to eat—get calories in them before they go to school or have workouts. A lot of times they’ll have morning workouts, so the strength and conditioning staff will give them some carbohydrate supplements in the morning.

More important: diet or exercise?

I think exercise. Obviously, both are important, but you could eat very healthy food, but if you’re not exercising—you know, your heart’s a muscle, and you have to exercise that. Maybe you can get by with doing more exercises and not eating as healthy—you can burn off some extra calories and still sort of maintain your weight.

Everyone knows that it’s crucial to stretch before and even after workouts, but many skip it because it’s so tedious. Are there any shortcuts to stretching?

Well, you just have to incorporate it as part of your daily routine. It’s one of the things you need to do before practice or a workout, and definitely afterward. Afterward, you’re already warmed up, so your muscles get a little better stretch. Also, you want to do something cardio-wise to get a little sweat going first before stretching. If you try to stretch the very first thing, your muscles are still a little stiff or cold. That’s why our teams will do a lap around the field or run up and down the court or run around the bases, then get a little stretch in.

Quickie workouts are all the rage now—20-minute this, 30-minute that. Do they really work?

I think they do. You just have to be careful that you don’t do too much, too fast, too soon. Any exercise is good, but just like anything else, you can overdo it. So if you haven’t been doing any exercises at all, and then all of a sudden you’re trying to go 20 or 30 minutes straight really, really fast, you can cause soreness and might aggravate an old injury.

Remember: Some of those things you see on TV, those people have been working out for months or years.

You’ve been with the UNLV athletic training staff since 1984. In your 30 years on the job, what’s been the most important change in your field?

One of the biggest things is improvement in surgical procedures. The very first surgery I saw was somebody who had torn cartilage in his knee, and they had to make an 8-inch incision, open up the knee, go in and take the entire cartilage out and stitch him up. Then they put his full leg in a plaster-of-paris cast, he’s on crutches for a month, and it took us three or four months to get him back just from cartilage surgery. Now they have a scope; it’s like a little camera that’s the size of a pencil that you put right into the knee, and the inside of the knee is enlarged on a big flat-screen TV in the operating room. Those people are recovered and back to running in maybe three or four weeks.

Outside of football, what’s the sport where you see the most injuries?

I’d probably say soccer—and probably more women’s soccer than the guys. They’re very competitive—just as much, if not more so, than the guys. You used to think, “Oh, [soccer’s] not really a contact sport,” but you go out there and they’re running into each other; they’re going down to make a tackle for the ball; they’re going up trying to hit the ball with their head and they hit heads. So you have a lot of concussions and a lot of knee injuries in soccer.

UNLV football coach Bobby Hauck and basketball coach Dave Rice line up for a 40-yard dash. Who’s your money on?

I’d have to go with Coach Hauck in a shorter distance, but I think Dave might beat him in at a [longer] distance. Being a basketball player and having to run for Tark [former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian] all those years, I think Dave is in pretty good shape. I don’t know what Coach Hauck’s endurance level would be after 40 yards, but I’d go with him up to 40. But it’d be close.