two years ago i took up tennis at the recommendation of a friend. before that i'd done tai ji, full-contact karate (shin kyu-kshin), long-distance skating (86 miles athens-to-atlanta 1999, 65 miles new york park 1999, 26 miles rotterdam 2006) and yoga (ashtanga and T.M Asanas). it's a big list of different physical activities, which have the following things in common:
* complex coordinated movement
* requiring or recommending very deep breathing (skating especially)
* very long and regular practice
the reason why i specifically love tennis is that in addition to these things it is necessary to not only be extremely physically fit but also, if you would like to win, you require strategy and planning both on and off the court. tennis is particularly harsh on the body in that it is a series of very short explosive sprints, standing still, *then* hitting the ball, and then doing it all over again.
also the types of movement required are *unbelievably* complex! serving involves *six* degrees of freedom of movement (x-y-z, rotation in x-y-z) in order to impart the maximum amount of inspired deviousness into a small yellow round object.
to fully understand why it was that, aged 44, i started this sport and now practice over an hour a day, you have to understand that prior to that i was sitting 12 hours a day in front of a computer screen: average distance approx 1 metre. for the prior 4 years that was a 24in imac, so the panorama i *initially* thought was great.... turned out to have caused extreme alterations in my eyes.
just over two years ago i discovered that my eyes had gone "prism". this is a new development: i've always had -0.75 astigmatism, but prism basically means that i can focus easily on an object that's 1 metre away, but if i look at something 3 metres or greater away i see *DOUBLE*. in the dark, i can't bring the two together.
the implications of that are that not only has there been physical damage caused by long-term computer usage but that there has also been *NEURAL* damage caused by long-term computer usage.
the bottom line of this story is, in this context, that this football player is being extremely sensible. if a few neurons get knocked out of place by a concussion, so damn what: his pursuit of mathematics will, by virtue of it being so incredibly challenging, allow him to grow new pathways and literally grow new neurons. the reason why his peers get brain damage is because they *don't* have anything other than football to challenge them.
each of his pursuits therefore supports the others. the physical exertion keeps his body - and his heart - fit. that in turn allows him more oxygen with which to feed his brain and thus sustain the pursuit of mathematics. the increased mental alertness allows him to play with tactics and strategy that the average player would not be able to consider. his specialty in mathematics would allow him to apply physics (moments of inertia) in a *really* practical way that would keep both him and the people he smacks down safer than would otherwise be done by someone without his knowledge.
but the best part of all this is that if he has a successful long-term career, i predict that he will end up inspiring thousands of young football players to pay a bit closer attention to their other studies, and that coaches will have an example - a specific person - that they can quote as to why, when they go recruiting, they are looking for someone who has not only the physique but also the high academic aptitude as well. ... wouldn't it be great to have an entire team of football players who not only kick ass (literally) but who have degrees and even PhDs? that would change how people think of football, forever.