Alex McKechnie is considered a miracle worker by many pro athletes. Los Angeles Lakers all-star centre Shaquille O’Neal goes one step further, crediting the Coquitlam, B.C., trainer with saving his career. As a result, the Lakers made the physiotherapist one of the team’s biggest off-season acquisitions last summer—naming him movement and performance coach after a six-year part-time relationship with the club. McKechnie’s unique program, which uses an elaborate series of elastic bands, is so effective in rehabbing players that it’s been incorporated into the Lakers’ regular training routine. “The program is very specific to the individual, the sport and even the player’s position,” says McKechnie, 52, with a thick Scottish accent—the product of a Glasgow upbringing. “It’s about maintaining a good neutral position and then reproducing the same dynamic movements regularly achieved during a game.”
Over the years, McKechnie has worked with the Vancouver Canucks and Canada’s national soccer team, and has helped numerous other pros—including Dallas Mavericks guard Steve Nash, Chicago Cubs first baseman Eric Karros and Colorado Avalanche forward Paul Kariya—bounce back from injuries. His history with O’Neal dates back to 1997, when the superstar suffered an abdominal wall tear. Facing surgery that would likely sideline him the entire season, he opted to work with McKechnie and was back in the lineup after missing just 21 games.
But do big-name athletes ever balk at trying such unorthodox methods? “Never,” says McKechnie, who also designed Reebok’s Core Board—a piece of exercise equipment, available to the public, which forces the body’s core muscles to maintain balance. “When players’ careers are on the bubble, they’ll do anything to get back out there.” They’ll even turn to a rubber-band man for the answers. JOHN INTINI
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