Why professional athletes like Aaron Rodgers are anti-vaccine and so susceptible to medical quackery
Yesterday it was revealed that Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers 7-1 quarterback, NFC leaders and reigning NFL MVP, was hit by COVID-19. It was also somehow revealed that Rogers had not been vaccinated against COVID, despite being a traveling athlete who is around a group of people all the time.
This second revelation came as a surprise to NFL watchers, as in August Rogers told reporters at a press conference that he was “immune” to the virus. Not vaccinated, mind you, but “immune”.
Now what did he mean by that? Apparently, Rogers researched a homeopathic alternative to the vaccination from his personal physician and tried to get the League and Players Union to classify him as immune enough to be considered fully vaccinated. They said no, it’s wrong, then put it through all league protocols for unvaccinated players, which include a 10-day minimum quarantine for anyone who tests positive.
So here we are: a quarterback who earns $ 33 million a year, who has already won on Celebrity danger and mostly seems to be a pretty rational guy (aside from his supposed belief in chemtrail conspiracy theories), was dismissed because he contracted a disease that you can be immune to with just two brief injections of a safe and effective vaccine. Once again, the actions of a public figure are reminiscent of the official COVID-19 mantra: “Fuck you and find out. “
What is vaccine hesitation? Lots of things, really. It’s a conspiracy theory, a manifestation of the American public’s distrust of doctors and big drug companies, which comes from places that are both reasonable and unreasonable. It’s a movement, and it was before anyone even heard the word “COVID.” In 2019, Vancouver, Washington, where I live, experienced a measles outbreak, fueled by vaccine plots that were pushed into Russian-speaking island communities on social media.
The modern anti-vaccine movement was started by a widely discredited study by British doctor Andrew Wakefield which suggested that autism could be caused by the widely distributed MMR vaccine. Instead of backing down when his wacky claims were demolished by peer review, Wakefield has instead created a nice little career as a public vaccine skeptic that stirs up concerns and flatters the intellect of prone parents. to fear something that they cannot intuitively understand. . Because more than anything else, reluctance to vaccinate is nonsense. It’s anti-science nonsense that fits neatly into a bunch of political and metaphysical molds – a tool for crooks to cultivate suspicion where none rationally should exist.
It looks like one of those crooks managed to hang on to Aaron Rodgers and blow up his NFL season. But, in this at least, Rodgers can sleep well knowing that this is a fairly common occurrence among professional athletes. The professional athlete cohort is particularly sensitive to medical nonsense, and has been for some time.
Take the case of Jim Galvin, a late 19th century pitcher. Dubbed “Pud” because his scorching fastball would turn opposing pitchers into marble pudding, Galvin was also an elite defensive pitcher with a monstrous pick-up movement – he has already selected three runners in a single inning – who has launched two hitterless and made himself a Hall of Famer despite his relatively short stature.
But, like all athletes, time has taken its toll. Galvin, unwilling to let go, searched for a “cutting edge” solution for aging: dog testosterone. In 1889, Pud volunteered for a hormone replacement study conducted by Charles-Édouard Brown-Séquard, a Franco-American physician and pioneer in neurology.. He was injected with the “Brown-Sequard Elixir”, a concoction of extracts from the testes of guinea pigs and dogs..
This should go without saying, but I have to stress that guinea pig testosterone is not actually a viable performance enhancer in humans, and any improvement someone might experience from the injection is attributable to the placebo effect. But Brown-Séquard was convinced it was helping him rejuvenate and was able to convince old Pud that he would do the same. When he managed to get his mojo back after getting dog nut juice in his arm, he and the press readily attributed the improvement to Dr. Brown-Séquard’s voodoo mix.
That’s all to say: half-baked medical thought has been a part of professional sport since the beginning of professional sport. Many of our best dubious sports therapy trends are popularized by professional athletes looking for the holy grail of perfect eternal performance. A lot of things are nonsense, of course, and some of them are best described as “a scam”. But the scam lies on a spectrum. Athletes might know, intellectually, that this shit doesn’t “work” in the scientific application of that word, but professional sports are an extremely stressful and all-consuming pursuit, and any mental advantage anyone can find, even if it’s seamlessly a placebo, can help in a world where success is determined by fluctuations in the muscles of the fingers.
Some of these activities are transparent lies on the part of the companies that make them and deceive them. Take, for example, the Power Balance Bracelet, a bracelet with… a hologram that its makers claimed to be better balanced. The company was forced to pay a $ 57 million class action settlement for making overlapping claims about their HoloBracelets, but not before Lamar Odom invested in their business and paid Shaq to have them. cut an advertisement.
Tom Brady, a public madman who once played for the New England Patriots quarterback (and who managed to get a shot), has long credited the theories of Alex Guerrero, a “body trainer” who s He’s already been fooled by the FTC for peddling fake concussion cures. The two went into business together, promoting the TB12 Method, a training regimen that places less emphasis on traditional strength training in favor of a concept called “flexibility.” Our muscles, you see, get injured more easily when they are stiff as wood. But if you practice making them soft, they won’t break. They go, instead, absorb stress and the impact of sports activity.
None of this is true, of course. But that didn’t stop the Patriots, seeking to appease their star quarterback, from contracting Guerrero and TB12 to help with the team’s athletic training at a facility the company has built across from the training center. of the Patriots. When the Patriots concluded that TB12’s methods may have contributed to injury issues on the team, Guerrero was exiled from the building. This created a rift which led to Brady’s departure from the team. His new team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are more open to the whims of Guerrero.
It’s tempting to read all of this and think it’s all about the money: TB12 is Brady’s business, their success depends on the athletes embracing and promoting flexibility or whatever, and the Patriots despising Guerrero. affected the outcome. But anyone who takes stock of Tom Brady as a human will realize one thing: he’s obsessed with football, obsessed with self-improvement, and obsessed with doing everything in his power. to stay on the ground as long as he can. He’s still a starting quarterback at the age of 44, five years older than Peyton Manning, who played his final seasons with a fused vertebra in his neck.
Guerrero’s methods are almost certainly not what is keeping Brady on the pitch right now. But what is all this mechanism Is giving him a feeling of control over his body. Brady must walk this pitch with the utmost confidence that he is ripe for the destruction of football. This whole scam is a way of convincing himself that he’s ready in a way that no one else could ever be; a long-term psycho-up that helps her deliver.
In 2013, on the eve of the Super Bowl, Illustrated sports posted some sort of profile of “SWATS”, a sports tech company that sold every form of BS you can imagine: ionized water (not real), holographs (let alone real), deer antler spray (not working not, and if it did, it would be a DESP). David Epstein, a writer whose work often combines sports writing with popular science, tells this story with what amounts to open contempt for the snake oil sellers who profit from this nonsense. This is all completely laughable. But hey, look towards the end: there’s Ray Lewis, the legendary Ravens linebacker, arguably the best defensive player of his generation, applying holographic “pain chips” to his aching elbow.
What is in painkiller crisps? Again: a feeling he does something for himself. Professional sport is an industry that does everything in its power to take it away from you. Teams insist on their own training methods, encourage you to play despite injury, and demand some degree of domination over your body in order to earn you a salary. Seeking alternative methods, even based on specious logic, allows athletes to put some distance between themselves and an industry that just doesn’t value their bodies as much as they do themselves.
In a way, I think this impulse explains something about vaccine hesitancy. American medical care is a nightmare. Patients are at the mercy of penny-pinching insurance companies, the medical establishment is riddled with racial prejudice, many people simply cannot afford to engage with a trusted primary care provider, it goes on and on. The whole system is designed to impose a lack of control on anyone who is not rich. Why shouldn’t this lack of control over one’s own health, and the misery it engenders, make people suspicious of medicine as a practice? Isn’t it natural for someone whose interactions with physicians are riddled with the personal interests of others to believe that doctors are pure profit agents?
Aaron Rodgers’ conspiratorial thought comes from a place of deep and bizarre privilege, of course. The blow obviously works and will not make you grow tentacles, nuts. But when your sense of biopower is compromised by forces that simply don’t have your best interests at heart, you might understandably become a little suspicious.