If there were ever a time for the National Football League to carefully understand and respect the boundary between legitimate medicine and quackery, that time would be now: The League has come under heated criticism for how it handles concussions, and there's growing evidence that the frequent blows to the head inherent to the sport have led to suicides and dementia among former players. All of which makes it rather shocking that the NFL has allowed Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to enter into a generous business arrangement with a quack who has profited off of concussion pseudoscience.
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The Boston Globe has a deep, important dive into the relationship between Brady and his "body coach," Alex Guerrero — and the rather sweet setup Guerrero has won himself at the Patriots team complex at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Brady, who, at 38, is playing some of the best football of his career, appears convinced that this is at least in part due to the advice and guidance of Guerrero, who markets himself as a wellness guru and alternative-health practitioner. He has so much faith in Guerrero, in fact, that they're business partners in Brady's company TB12 Sports Therapy, which has an office next to the stadium in Foxboro (Guerrero is also the godfather of Brady's).
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The problem is that the term "checkered past" doesn't begin to capture Guerrero's biography. In 2014, the Federal Trade Commission forced him to stop selling Neurosafe, a drink he claimed prevents concussions, which Brady once promoted (Spoiler: There's no reason to think it or any other ingested substancecan prevent concussions); he's also been sanctioned by the FTC for "marketing a beverage made largely of organic greens that he falsely claimed could help prevent or cure cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes." In addition, he "falsely portrayed himself as a medical doctor and lied that he had obtained a bachelor's degree in biology," when he actually has a degree in traditional Chinese medicine from a now-defunct university, and is accused by those who have done business with him in the past of bilking them out of tens of thousands of dollars. Even just including the falsehoods Guerrero himself has acknowledged during his wranglings with the authorities, there's some very damning stuff here:
%shareLinks-quote="The Globe notes that his "admitted falsehoods through the years have included him claiming he conducted a clinical study in which all but eight of 200 terminally ill patients lived at least five years by following his alternative health recommendations." type="spreadWord"%
He also said in a deposition that he had once falsely claimed to have sold a company for $500 million to Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic."
To a certain extent, Brady has the right to enter into business partnerships with any quack he wants, as long as he himself doesn't break the law. The problem is when he drags his team and his league into it. Here's the key bit from the article:
Guerrero's past has not dissuaded the Patriots from forging a business relationship with the company he owns with Brady, the TB12 Sports Therapy Center, at the Patriots Place complex adjacent to Gillette Stadium. Since the center opened in 2013, the team has paid the company for Guerrero and his staff to provide treatment services and nutritional advice to multiple Patriots players.
The Globe did not determine how many players Guerrero and his staff have treated or how much money the Patriots have paid Brady and Guerrero's company. The team and the two principals all declined to comment.
Some of Guerrero's former associates also wondered why Brady and the Patriots would want to forge financial relationships with an entrepreneur whose history of legal trouble includes business partners accusing him of fraud.
The article notes that despite complaints from the Patriots' actual training and medical staff, the team has set aside "a room at Gillette Stadium for him to treat players away from the regular medical and training staffs." Guerrero gets $200.
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A major focus of the Globe article is the financial implications, from a salary-cap perspective, of the team effectively paying Brady (through his TB12 company) for Guerrero's services. That's certainly an interesting question for the experts, but I'd argue that what's much more noteworthy and damaging here is the extent to which the NFL is lending legitimacy to a figure who has pushed so much irresponsible "medicine." Guerrero, who already hit the jackpot by developing such a close relationship with Brady, is only going to benefit further from being able to tout the fact that he "treats" NFL players.
The NFL can't really do anything about Brady's affiliation with Guerrero. What it can do is mitigate the damage by distancing itself from him. After all, there's a high likelihood for very real harm here, for the publicity Guerrero has gained from his Patriots affiliation to lead more people to fork over their money to him.