American Football

Tom Brady’s TB12 method in schools raises doubts

At some schools in the Tampa Bay area, students use foam rollers and vibrating spheres to massage their muscles as they work toward strength and flexibility goals. It’s all part of a new physical education curriculum from quarterback Tom Brady, whose vision for healthy living is fueling a fitness empire.

The settlement with schools in Pinellas County, Fla., marks a foray into education for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers superstar and his methods — including some that have been criticized as pseudoscience.

Physical education experts have raised questions about the approach’s suitability for school-age children. But the program — and its connection to the seven-time Super Bowl champion — has sparked students’ interest in fitness and nutrition, others say.

“My legs are a lot looser and they don’t weigh as much,” said Antoine James, eighth grader. “It really helps.”

A pilot project has incorporated parts of the program into fitness and health courses in 10 middle and high schools in the area with 96,000 students. The TB12 Foundation, the charitable arm of Brady’s fitness business, is footing the bill to train area staff and provide them with equipment.

The marketing push for the TB12 is, of course, free.

Adults who take the “TB12 Method,” as Brady describes it in a 2017 book, can meet with a trainer for $200 an hour at one of his company’s training centers. Its product line includes plant-based protein powder, electrolytes, and vibrating rollers that retail for $160.

“I’m sure one of the benefits is helping students get into better exercise habits and fitness habits,” said Karen Rommelfanger, an assistant professor of neurology and psychiatry at Emory University. “But is it starting to attract another generation of consumers to their product?”

In Pinellas County, the plan is to expand to other middle and high schools next year. If all goes well, the Brady Foundation aims to use the program as a model for other areas.

“Today, we’re focusing on a slightly older customer for the most part,” said Grant Shriver, president and CEO of TB12, where the average customer is about 40. “It just gives us a little bit of an idea of ​​how we might to get closer to more people.”

The TB12 Foundation’s first partnership in education began in 2020 with Brockton Public Schools in Massachusetts, where Brady played for the New England Patriots. TB12 took a dozen of the area’s athletes to its training center for free. This effort later expanded to Malden Public Schools, also in the Boston area.

“I grew up where you lifted heavy weights and, you know, you measure strength by how much you can bench and how much you can squat. And this is completely different,” said Brockton Public Schools Athletic Director Kevin Caro. His district is now contracting to use some of TB12’s staff as strength and conditioning coaches for student-athletes.

Most of Brady’s advice is pretty mainstream, including an emphasis on a positive attitude, good nutrition and adequate sleep. But some of his guidelines have faced skepticism. In his book, he famously attributed his tendency not to get sunburned to his high water intake. His trainer, Alex Guerrero, was investigated before he joined Brady by the Federal Trade Commission over unsubstantiated claims that a supplement he promoted could cure concussions.

Brady, 45, describes his approach as a departure from the heavy lifting culture of the gym. Instead, he recommends exercise bands and something he calls “flexibility,” which includes an emphasis on flexibility and massage.

“I feel like everything I’ve learned over the course of 23 years in football has and will allow me to continue to help people in different ways,” Brady said Thursday. “I think starting young is really important, educating people about what works as opposed to the way things have always been.”

Athletic trainers are moving toward a model that includes a mix of strength training, flexibility and balance exercises, said Mike Fantigrassi, senior director of product development for the National Academy of Sports Medicine, which certifies trainers. But he said he has concerns about the word “flexibility” being taught in schools as if it were scientifically proven.

“It’s a term they made up,” he said. “Some of these things are not rooted in good science. And if you’re putting a curriculum in schools, I believe it should be rooted in good science.”

Brady is one of the world’s greatest athletes, but he has no experience teaching children, said Terry Drain, past president of the Society of Health and Physical Educators.

“I’m just a little concerned that a school district the size of this would grab this celebrity program,” said Drain, who runs a nonprofit that provides professional development for health and physical education teachers.

As for diets, Brady advises against eating nightshade family foods like peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants due to concerns about inflammation. Experts like Eric Rome say much of Brady’s dietary guidelines are extreme and not supported by a “vast scientific base.”

Still, Rome, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, said there may be benefits.

“If you get rid of the average American’s eighth-grade diet and go to what he’s eating, yes, it’s much healthier,” he said. “This is fantastic.”

One plus is that the name Brady makes students cheer in class, said Allison Swank, an eighth-grade health teacher and Pinellas County track coach.

“They definitely know who he is and it’s exciting for them to be able to connect what we’re going to do with his program,” she said.

In the pilot classes, students take baseline assessments to assess areas such as their strength, conditioning and flexibility. Then they set goals to pursue for improvement, said pre-K-12 health and physical education specialist Ashley Grimes.

She said districts around the county have been in touch asking what the program is and if it’s something they can do as well.

The program does not use Brady’s book as a textbook, emphasized Ben Wieder, a member of the Pinellas Education Foundation, who uses TB12 himself and approached the foundation about bringing the program to the district.

“Tom Brady eats avocado ice cream. We don’t teach to eat avocado ice cream,” Wither said. Most of the science-backed elements of the curriculum are aligned with Florida’s educational standards, he said. “I think if you were to go through the book, you’d probably be talking about 90, 95 percent of the content being universally accepted.”


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Associated Press reporter Rob Maadi contributed from Tampa, Florida.


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The Associated Press Education Team receives support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. AP is solely responsible for all content.