Coming Fall 2023: Without Helmets or Shoulder Pads by Irvin Muchnick

Publicity Contact:
Claire Pokorchak, Publicity Manager, ECW Press

Author Irvin Muchnick in a blue suit and white shirt

ECW Press has announced a fall 2023 publication date for investigative journalist and author Irvin Muchnick’s book Without Helmets or Shoulder Pads: The American Way of Death in Youth Football Conditioning.

The public health harm of football has been widely explored in recent years mostly in relation to traumatic head injury — including in Muchnick’s own 2015 ECW Press book Concussion Inc.: The End of Football as We Know It. His new book tackles this important subject at another level, with shocking new research on how several American amateur, and often underage, football players are killed every year. These fatalities are not even from trauma or contact, but simply from the excesses of youth coaches’ practice drills. The author characterizes this annual toll as an underreported “social pandemic” attributable to the sport’s huge and unchecked commercial and cultural footprint.

Among the cover-ups of these deaths of young student-athletes exposed in Muchnick’s book — some all the way down to high schools — is that of Ted Agu at the University of California. Agu had a condition, sickle cell trait, that makes many African Americans susceptible to sudden death during extreme exertion. Yet knowledge of the syndrome is suppressed from widespread public knowledge. The full stories of the Agu cover-up, as well as others involving exertional heatstroke, asthma, and other causes, are told in part through Muchnick’s years of public information lawsuits against schools and other public agencies.

Irvin Muchnick “produces magnificent investigative journalism,” wrote Frank Deford, the late legendary dean of sportswriters. Muchnick has written cover stories for the Sunday magazines of the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, and hundreds of other articles for Salon, People, The Washington Monthly, and many other publications. His 2009 book Chris & Nancy: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death (now in its third edition) spurred Congressional investigations of the industry’s drug abuse and early fatalities. His reporting on sexual abuse in the sport of swimming helped launch separate grand jury and Justice Department investigations. Muchnick is lead respondent of the landmark 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick, enforcing the economic rights of freelance writers. He is @irvmuch on Twitter. For more information, see

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