Tom Goldman

The famed horse racing track, Santa Anita Park, is up and running after being closed for much of last month following a spike in racehorse deaths. Since the end of December 2018, 23 thoroughbreds have died — mostly due to injuries from racing or training. The fatalities have forced the horse racing industry, and the public, to take a hard look at the sport and some of the issues that have been debated for years: Are the economics of horse racing taking priority over the animals' health and welfare? Should racehorses be medicated and, if so, how much?

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Time now for sports.

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Tim Green first noticed the symptoms about five years ago.

The former NFL player, whose strength was a job requirement, suddenly found his hands weren't strong enough to use a nail clipper. His words didn't come out as fast as he was thinking them.

"I'm a strange guy," Tim says. "I get something in my head and I can just run with it. I was really afraid I had ALS. But there was enough doubt that I said, 'Alright, I don't. Let's not talk about it. Let's not do anything.' "

Denying pain and injury had been a survival strategy in football.

CTE has been part of the national lexicon in the U.S. since the 2015 movie Concussion dramatized the discovery of this degenerative brain disease among football players.

We live in an age of heightened awareness about concussions. From battlefields around the world to football fields in the U.S., we've heard about the dangers caused when the brain rattles around inside the skull and the possible link between concussions and the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

As the country starts to get back into its most popular professional team sport, there is a reminder of how dangerous football can be.

An updated study published Tuesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association on football players and the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy reveals a striking result among NFL players.

Voters in seven more states said "yes" to marijuana this month. Pot now is legal for recreational or medicinal use in more than half the country.

It's still against federal law and classified as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning U.S. officials consider marijuana to have a high risk of abuse or harm, and no accepted medical use in treatment. Also, it's still banned in professional sports.

Mariya Koroleva and Anita Alvarez stride in unison to the edge of a large swimming pool. Their swimsuits are spangly; their eye makeup, heavy. They wear nose clips. After a series of choreographed poses on the pool deck, they dive in.

They are the only U.S. pair competing in the synchronized swimming duet event at the Rio Olympics. On Monday, their technical routine qualified them for Tuesday's finals.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The United States is basketball crazy.

For boys and girls who play sports, basketball is the most popular choice.

But as Americans age, a new poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reveals, there's a widening gender gap when it comes to hoops. Why are adult female basketball players giving up the game they once loved?

Jack Everett sat on his living room couch wearing a back brace, eyes glued to a massive TV set playing his favorite video game, NHL 2013.

"I'm the Boston Bruins," the 10-year-old said as he deftly worked the video controls. "The guy that just shot was Milan Lucic. He's a really good guy on our team."

Whether at home or during recess at his elementary school in suburban Los Angeles, Jack's young life now is about sitting still.

"Well, I can eat lunch with friends, and I play cards," Jack says. But his classmates are out running and jumping outside.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST: