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The Week In Sports: Peyton Manning, Head Injuries And Political Differences

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Time now for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Surgery for Tiger Woods's back - this is the straw that breaks it, plus some more bad stats on head injuries in football and famous wealthy people airing political differences in front of cameras with dignity. No, not the U.S. presidential campaign. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. Tom, thanks for being with us. How are you?

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: I am fine. Thank you.

SIMON: Ask me.

GOLDMAN: How are you?

SIMON: As good as a Cub fan can be after that series against the Cardinals (laughter). So now that you've pretended to be concerned, Tiger Woods confirmed he's had a second surgery for his back. How likely will it be that when he returns to the tour next year for a lot of reasons - that surgery included - he won't be won't be the presence he once was, and what'll that mean for golf?

GOLDMAN: You know, certainly Tiger Woods is saying it's not the end of his once storied career. He's showing the same optimism he showed this year, even as his world ranking plummeted to 283. In a statement, he said it's disappointed but - it's disappointing, but I'm a fighter. I have no doubt I can make a full recovery. But, you know, as he struggled this season, we've gotten a sense of what the men's tour will be like without him, and it is pretty exciting. You have a current big three - Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy - four if you want to add American Ricky Fowler. And that represents what certainly appears to be the start of a new golden era in men's golf. These guys are all in their 20s. They should be competing for majors in the top ranking for the next decade. They are personable and athletic. In watching them, golf appears to be a sport, Scott, to all those haters who say it isn't.

SIMON: Yeah. I'd reckon who'll respond to that. Let me ask you about some - to my mind - shocking stats yesterday. PBS's Frontline released new figures they received from brain researchers at the Veterans Administration in Boston University, obviously about head concussions in sports. I found it chilling.

GOLDMAN: According to Frontline, 87 out of 91 former NFL players who were studied postmortem tested positive for CTE - chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the brain disease at the center of the debate over concussions in football. This doesn't represent all NFL players, and Frontline is careful to say testing for CTE can be an imperfect science, but it confirms what we've been hearing for a while now. And this news comes at the beginning of another exciting NFL season. There will be another uptick in the story near the end of the regular season with a release of the movie "Concussion" with Will Smith. So the issue remains part of our consciousness, even as many enjoy NFL action from Thursdays through Monday nights.

SIMON: Even if you perceived on the assumption that millionaire athletes can make their own decisions - what about youth participation in football? Are fewer kids doing that and exposing themselves to injury?

GOLDMAN: Interesting for all that's been written and said about this issue, all the fear it's generated - not a big change in youth participation. According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association in 2009, 1.97 million kids ages 6 to 14 played organized tackle football. Last year, 1.88 million - and tackle football remains the most popular sport to play for high school boys. So while the concussion news continues to generate concern, not quite a chilling effect on playing the game.

SIMON: Finally, a difference of opinion between a couple of players on the Seahawks - Seattle Seahawks - this week. I know it caught your attention because it was reasoned, respectful and informative, unlike some other stuff we've been seeing recently.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Seattle's Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett are having a public debate and a civil debate about the Black Lives Matter movement. And it's another example of prominent athletes taking a political stand - something that's been happening more of lately. The country's most famous athlete, LeBron James, has been very outspoken on political issues.

SIMON: Yeah. And of course, Tom Brady recently endorsed Donald Trump.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, I saw that, and I thought, for Brady's safety, let's hope his offensive linemen aren't undocumented immigrants.

SIMON: (Laughter) NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks very much for being with us.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.