FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Kevin Alston’s hamstrings garnered a fair bit of attention during the speedy right back’s first two MLS seasons.
Alston missed a total of 12 games in those first two years – four in 2009 and eight in 2010 – all because of hamstring injuries. Literally adding insult to injury, Alston twice missed out on U.S. National Team camps because of hamstring issues, suffering a hamstring strain early in the January 2010 camp and then re-aggravating the injury the day before he was scheduled to leave for another camp in February.
So when Alston continued to experience hamstring issues early this year and subsequently missed preseason action and the 2011 season opener against the LA Galaxy as a result, it appeared as if the 23-year-old was headed for a third straight year of frustrating injury concerns.
But that March 20 match against the Galaxy was ultimately the only game Alston missed in the entire 2011 campaign. The former Indiana University standout maintained his health and started the next 33 games on the right side of the Revolution’s backline en route to establishing a new club record for minutes played (2,954) in a season.
“I felt like it was a big accomplishment,” Alston said of his newfound ironman status. “Especially just coming from how I was last year, being in and out and having those nagging injuries, and (this year) being able to maintain myself, keep myself healthy and play the majority of the year.”
Alston’s achievement was admittedly aided by the league’s expanded 34-game schedule, which provided the chance to play more minutes than ever before. The previous club record for minutes played in a season was held by the trio of Mike Burns (1997), Michael Parkhurst (2005) and Matt Reis (2006), all of whom played every minute (2,880) of a 32-game schedule, previously the longest in league history.
But the basis for Alston’s continued health throughout such a grueling season dates back to last year, when the Silver Spring, Md., native remained in Foxborough through late December to participate in rehab workouts on his hamstrings four times a week. Alston also spent time in January working with a specialist in Delaware in an effort to prepare his body as best he could.
Of course, diligent maintenance throughout the season was also critical as Alston remains constantly focused on protecting his hamstrings on a day-to-day basis.
“[Head athletic trainer Sean Kupiec and assistant athletic trainer Evan Allen] have done a great job this year just making sure I’m coming in and doing those necessary exercises and maintaining it,” said Alston. “We do a set of manual resistance exercises every week just to keep me on par and keep it ready to go.”
Alston wasn’t able to avoid the treatment room completely in 2011, as a challenge from Columbus Crew midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo on Aug. 13 resulted in a fractured scaphoid bone in his left wrist. But Alston was able to play the final two months of the season in a heavily-wrapped cast and underwent surgery to repair the injury shortly after the season ended.
Considering the wrist injury never prevented Alston from taking the field, it was viewed as a minor inconvenience in an otherwise healthy season. And having experienced a full schedule without spending time on the sidelines, Alston is now more focused than ever on making health a habit for years to come.
“One of my biggest things that I want to work on is consistency, and consistency starts with being able to play consistently,” said Alston. “So I definitely want to keep this going into next year, hopefully build on it and get better injury-wise, team-wise and personally.”