In his or her three-year playing career, a Junior Pee Wee player today (should they be reading the news) has been exposed to more coverage of brain damage and football than the Super Bowl’s oldest starter, Tom Brady, could have seen, total, between when he was born in 1977 and drafted in 2000.
Between the Junior Pee Wee player and 40-year-old Brady, there’s a generation of football players who have made pivotal life choices about the sport in a decade in which the conversation has changed, with each cohort being better informed than the last. The youngest starter in this year’s game, 23-year-old Patriots linebacker Elandon Roberts, would have been exposed to more stories about brain injuries and football during four years of high school alone than were published in the 22 years before Brady made the decision to go pro.
That makes Roberts part of the first wave of NFL players with enough information available to make more informed health decisions about whether to play in high school, college and the pro leagues, assuming they had the time and opportunity to consult it.
For this post, we’re assuming the players who started in the conference championships will also start the Super Bowl. We’re using a count of Washington Post and New York Times articles that mention “brain damage,” “brain injury” and “football” as a rough estimate of media coverage, because they’re searchable in a consistent format and over a time period long enough to cover all current players.