It’s no secret that Tom Brady is winning the battle against time.
The Patriots quarterback is entering his 20th season in the NFL and hopes he has a few more years left in the tank. But what will happen to the Super Bowl champ as time goes on? In a recent article published by The Guardian, researchers gave insights as to what will happen to Brady’s physical skills with aging, as well as on what he’s done to counter the effects of getting older so far.
According to Hirofumi Tanaka, researcher of aging at the University of Texas, athletic longevity is possible through what he calls the ‘Formula One approach’, which focuses on “nutrition, injury prevention, sleep [and] training.” Brady’s specific training methods not only support this approach, but help him with certain “physiological” declines that happen naturally with age.
By the age of 40, the human body undergoes a decline in muscle mass and testosterone that directly effects the “size and numbers of muscle fibers.” Resistance training is one way to help improve muscle strength, and this has helped Brady develop a, “natural and refined [throwing method] with little wasted motion”, that proves to be effective. According to former Detroit Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky, Brady, “has the arm strength to make every pass that he needs to [and] he understands the right throw for every situation.”
The nervous system also changes as the body ages, which could directly effect the mechanics of an aging quarterback. QB coach Tom House, who has worked with Brady on his throwing mechanics, said that older quarterbacks experience a, “decreased nervous system function, flexibility and power/acceleration.” He believes Brady needs to be handled with care.
“You have to treat a 40-year-old quarterback like a 12-year-old,” House said.
Vision can worsen with age as well. According to the American Optometric Association, these changes include a need for more light, difficulty focusing on near objects, issues with glare and a shift in color perception. They are common issues for people in their forties and for a quarterback like Brady, the loss of “focusing power” in his eyes could effect his ability to see the ball and read plays. However, Greg Appelbaum, director of the Human Performance Optimization Lab at Duke University, believes that a sensorimotor skill known as prospective interference gives Brady an advantage, allowing him to make adequate decisions on when to throw the ball and how to read plays. His brain training games also help to improve his visual perception by enhancing cognitive skills such as coordination, attention, memory and navigation.
“What is true of Tom Brady, probably isn’t true of everyone else,” Appelbaum said. “Brady has unbelievable mental skills that seemingly get better with age.”