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This month’s spotlight: Kenny Ishii, ATC Sporting Kansas City

August 9, 2014

Kentaro “Kenny” Ishii, ATC, is the head athletic trainer and rehabilitation coordinator for Sporting Kansas City. He joined the Major League Soccer team in 2008 as assistant athletic trainer. For two seasons, Kenny was the team’s rehabilitation coordinator. This is his first season in the dual role of head athletic trainer and rehabilitation coordinator.

Kenny grew up in Mishima, Japan, and at age 17 he decided to be an athletic trainer. “I played soccer as a high school student in Japan,” Kenny says, “and had a lot of injuries. We didn’t get that much guidance for our injuries. Therapists are more common than athletic trainers in Japan, and a therapist came to my school once a week at the most to work with injured players. Because of all my injuries, I spent quite a bit of time with therapists and from them I learned about the profession of athletic training in the United States. I was told it was a popular and well-established job, and that is what I wanted to study.”

Following high school graduation in 2004, Kenny came to this country and attended Texas Christian University, with a double major in athletic training and exercise science. When he graduated in 2008, Kenny had gained experience through internships with the Ben Hogan Sports Therapy Institute, the Forth Worth Flyers, Dallas Cowboys, and Kansas City Wizards. In 2009, the National Academy of Sports Medicine and the California University of Pennsylvania (CUP) named Kenny a Pursuit of Excellence in Health and Fitness award winner. The award came with a $15,000.00 grant toward a Master of Science degree in exercise science from CUP, and Kenny completed the masters program in 2010.

Kenny is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and through the National Academy of Sports Medicine has earned credentials as a Corrective Exercise Specialist and Performance Enhancement Specialist. He is also certified as a Postural Restoration Trained athletic trainer from the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI), and has an intense interest in an integrating manual therapy and movement training for injury prevention and performance enhancement in soccer players.

Under Kenny’s direction, Sporting Kansas City athletes incorporate PRI exercises into their regular routine, and he says the exercises help prevent injury and aid in the rehab process. He explains, “The Postural Restoration Institute was founded by Ron Hruska. PRI is a physical medicine that approaches underlying biomechanics, which can often lead to symptoms of pain and dysfunction. It recognizes the structural and functional asymmetry in the human body and the common patterns associated with those asymmetries. The PRI techniques correct faulty movement strategies and orientation of body parts to restore the body’s optimal function.

“For example,” Kenny continues, “Left Anterior Interior Chain (L AIC) pattern is a common pattern we work on. There are two AICs in the human body—left and right. The AIC itself is a polyarticular muscle chain consisting of the diaphragm, psoas major, iliacus, tensor fasciae latae, biceps femoris, and the vastus lateralis muscle. It has significant influence on respiration, rotation of the trunk, ribcage, spine and lower extremities. During functional movement, such as walking and running, the right and left AIC should turn on and off in a reciprocal manner. However, due to structural and functional asymmetry, people tend to fall into the L AIC pattern, so the L AIC doesn’t turn off, and the R AIC doesn’t turn on. There are exercises that restore the right-left functional balance. It’s a very interesting technique that is being used in MLS and MLB, and some NFL teams are using it on an individual basis. Using the PRI technique, rehab will be slightly different for a left knee injury than it will be for a right knee injury, because the structure and function of the left side versus the right side are slightly different.”

It’s been 10 years since Kenny graduated from high school in Japan, and he says that resources for helping injured athletes in that country have improved, but are still not established like it is in the U.S. “Every year I visit Japan and talk to therapists, personal trainers, and athletic trainers about my job and methods that I use for my athletes. I’m where I am right now because of people who supported me when I was a student, and it’s important to give back. So at Sporting Kansas City we offer year-long and summer internship programs, and focus on helping athletic training students and young professionals, including Japanese students studying here in the United States.”

Kenny enjoyed the international attention on soccer during the World Cup games. “As a soccer guy, I enjoyed the World Cup. As an athletic trainer, I hope it helps to establish a better and safer game for the players, especially in how concussion and possible concussion are handled during the game. If concussion or possible concussion are managed properly, it will be a win-win for the players and for the governing body. The discussion is already there, and concussion is always one of top topic at the annual MLS medical symposium.“

Kenny is married and has a three-year-old son and a four-month-old daughter. “The soccer season is extremely long—10 months—so my family is my priority when I have time off,” he says. “And I still like to play soccer, so I try to find some time for that, too!”