Off-field regimen vital to athletes’ longevity

If the 2015 NFL playoffs will be remembered for anything other than controversial officiating decisions, it will be for the career longevity of the quarterbacks. Two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time were featured in this year’s playoffs with Peyton Manning on the Denver Broncos and Tom Brady on the New England Patriots. While both men have had long and successful playing careers, this season marked the first time where age became a factor in their performance.

At thirty-eight years old, and coming off a neck surgery several years ago, Peyton Manning was able to lead the Denver Broncos to a twelve-win season and the second seed in the AFC. However, after a mediocre performance in a 24-13 loss to the underdog Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round, critics are beginning to doubt Manning’s playing ability going forward. It was recently revealed that in the weeks leading up to the playoff loss, Manning had been playing on a strained quad. The question then becomes how much of an impact the injury has had on Manning’s playmaking ability. Are his struggles also due in part to the natural aging process of athletes? Manning had already suffered a noticeable dip in performance over the last few weeks of the regular season. Manning has refused to place the blame for the loss on his injury, leading to speculation that aging is the root cause of his woes. When asked by reporters whether or not he would return for another season with the Broncos, Manning did not provide a solid answer and left open the possibility that this season may have been his last in the NFL.

Over in New England, a thirty-seven year old Tom Brady managed to lead the Patriots to thirteen wins and the top seed in the AFC. After a rough start to the season, the Patriots have been on a roll. Much of that success has come as a result of Brady’s fantastic play. At the time of this writing, Brady led the Patriots to a thrilling 35-31 victory over the Baltimore Ravens in which he completed 33 of 50 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns. Even at thirty seven, Brady has so far shown few signs of slowing down.

In fact, Brady has gone on record saying that he wants to play until “he sucks,” and is not considering retirement any time soon. With regard to rumors that he regularly goes to bed at 8:30pm, Brady said in an article from NFL.com: “I do go to bed very early, because I’m up very early…I think that the decisions that I make are always, they always probably center around performance enhancement, if that makes sense. So whether that is what I eat or what decisions I make or whether I drink or don’t drink, it’s always football-centric. I want to be the best I can be every day. I want to be the best I can be every week. I want to be the best I can be for my teammates.”

In a December article for Sports Illustrated, Greg Bishoped detailed the lengths Brady goes to to take care of his body, ensuring that he minimizes the aging process. Brady owns a therapy center next to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, where he works with body coach Alex Guerrero. Each day over the next three years of Brady’s career is already planned out. Everything in Tom Brady’s life is meticulously planned, from his workouts to his diet and sleep schedule. In the summer he eats a diet of mostly raw foods, while in the winter months he subsists more on hot foods and cooked meats. He has a brain resiliency program that helps him to make on-field decisions more efficiently. The whole report is fascinating and can be read on www.si.com.

Brady is not the only athlete who is so fanatical about taking care of his body. Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant is currently averaging over twenty-four points per game this season despite being thirty-six years old and coming off of multiple surgeries in the past couple of seasons. A recent article on espn.com by Baxter Holmes discusses how consuming bone broth has helped Bryant’s body to recover more quickly. This special soup, which is certainly not the kind you might find in supermarkets, is extremely rich in nutrients and collagen and requires hours to simmer the various animal bones that go into making it. Bryant and team chef Sandra Padilla meticulously plan his meals to make sure that he gets as many nutrients as possible, while minimizing the intake of foods and ingredients that might cause inflammation in his body. The chefs at the hotels the team travels to are routinely asked to cook Bryant’s meals with olive oil, rather than vegetable or peanut oil.  All of this focus on eating a squeaky clean diet has enabled Bryant to make it this far, playing the amount of minutes at the high level required of him by the Lakers’ coaching staff.

Another NBA star who has seemed to defy age is Ray Allen, who at thirty nine years old is still somehow an attractive free agent for NBA teams that need a reliable shooter off the bench. In the summer of 2012, Ray Allen began following a modified version of the Paleo Diet, which emphasizes eating fruits, vegetables, and meats while staying away from highly processed food. Soon after starting the diet, Allen lost ten pounds and felt more energetic and less inflamed than he had before. Allen also spends a great deal of time working out to strengthen his core and joints in order to ensure that aging does not negatively impact his playing performance.

Allen also goes through a rigorous routine in preparing on game day. As discussed in an article via bleacherreport.com, Allen comes on court around 4p.m. for a typical 7 p.m. night game to practice shooting for an hour. This is followed by an hour of stretching and a light sandwich right before the game. The weird thing is that Ray Allen has this routine before every NBA game he plays. It is this level of extreme dedication that makes Allen an attractive free agent to teams despite being nearly 40 years old.

With all of the anti-aging techniques being introduced these days, it is no longer so uncommon to see star athletes playing into their late thirties and even early forties. There will be more quarterbacks like Brett Favre who feel like they have what it takes to perform at a professional level even if it seems unbelievable to fans and critics.

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